VIN Cloning and Motor Vehicle Title Fraud

by Mady Bay

Vin poked his head into Chris’s office. “Hey, Chris, mind if I take the rest of the day? Gotta head down to the DMV,” he said, disgust in his voice.
“Sure, Vin,” Chris replied, looking at his watch. “Bring a book,” he added, but when he looked up, the doorway was empty.
Several hours later, Chris was finishing up his paperwork for the day, ready to head home, when his phone rang. He was tempted to ignore it, figuring whoever it was would leave a message. If it was real important, people knew how to get hold of him.
“Oh, what the hell,” he muttered and picked up the phone. “Larabee,” he answered. He listened for a few seconds, then exclaimed, “WHAT??!! Where?! I’ll be right there!”
After hanging up the phone, he made a bee-line for the door, nearly knocking over Buck as he did.
“Whoa there, pard’! Where’s the fire?” Buck asked, grabbing Chris by the elbow.
“Homeland Security arrested Vin!”
“What the fuck?” Buck blurted, letting go of Chris and joining him now as they headed out.
“That’s the question of the hour, Buck,” Chris replied.
Chris paced around the office of Homeland Security – just three floors down from his own office in Denver’s Federal Office Buiding Complex – waiting to be seen by their senior agent. Finally, after an hour’s wait, the door opened and a tall blonde woman emerged.
“Agent Larabee?” she called. At Chris’s nod, she invited him back to her office, continuing, “I’m Maren Beck, senior agent in charge of Agent Tanner’s case.”
“What the hell is going on?”
At Agent Beck’s invitation, Chris sat down at a small table.
“That’s the question of the day, Agent Larabee,” she replied. She put a small pile of file folders on the table. Vin’s name and picture were on the top folder. “We’ve had several people come forward recently, stating that they’ve dealt with your Agent Tanner, but in different places and times… and with different identities…” she spread out the folders.
Chris saw that each had a different name – Martin Fitzgerald, FBI, Michael Dorset, CIA and Michael Wiseman, ???, – but all had pictures of Vin – or likenesses of Vin. They had his face, but the hair; the smile; something was just a bit different in each one…
Agent Beck saw the confusion on Chris’s face. “How long have you known Vin Tanner, Agent Larabee?” she asked, ready to write on a legal pad she’d brought out.
“Three years,” Chris replied absently, scanning the second file, the one labeled, “Martin Fitzgerald, FBI.” He put the file down quickly, then, remembering why he was really there – to help Vin, not add evidence to whatever Agent Beck was looking at. “Look, there’s got to be some explanation for all of this. Maybe he’s got some long lost twin… or triplet… All I know is Vin is the best friend I’ve got and one of the best law enforcement agents in the country!”
“We picked him up at the DMV today,” Agent Beck went on, ignoring Chris’s statement. “He was trying to register a vehicle that had been listed as totaled – the plates were to have been voluntarily surrendered two months ago.”
“THAT’S what you picked him up on??!!” Chris balked. “He’s a threat to Homeland Security because some insurance company screwed up his paperwork again?”
“He was trying to register a 2009 Buick, under another alias, “N. Welles,” she read from another case file, which she put down on the table in front of Chris, next to the other files.
Chris closed his eyes and shook his head. After a few seconds he looked Agent Beck in the eye and said, “N. Welles is Nettie Welles. She’s a secretary in the ATF offices and practically Vin’s adoptive mother, which, if you’d done any background check on Vin at all, you would know that. She’s been feeling poorly since her car accident two months ago, still not able to get around on her own. The insurance company has been screwing up left and right…”
“Fine,” Agent Beck said, putting up a hand to halt Chris’s rant. She put the “N. Welles” file to the side. “But that still doesn’t explain these others,” she said.
“Have you tried calling these other places – the FBI and the CIA – to see if those guys exist right at this moment – since you have Vin in custody here?” Chris asked.
“We’re working on it, obviously, Agent Larabee,” she replied, trying not to sound too sarcastic.
Chris looked at his watch. “Can I at least see Vin? Wait with him until this is cleared up?”
“You’re awful sure of this, Agent Larabee,” she said, quickly adding, “but no, he’s being questioned. And yes, before you ask, he’s got representation.”
“Who?” Chris asked, wondering who Vin would have called already.
Agent Beck looked in her notes. “Theodore Morris is the lawyer’s name. Agent Tanner called him right away. Do you know him?”
Chris shook his head; he didn’t know him. He wondered how Vin did. He’d expected to hear Agent Beck say Ezra’s name for some reason…
Chris looked at his watch. It was nearing midnight. He’d sent Buck back to the office hours ago, wanting him to gather as much information on the names he’d gotten from the file folders – getting JD to run his computer magic – and to also make sure AD Travis knew what was going on as well.
He was just about to start pacing when the office doors opened and Vin walked out, followed by a tall black man, who looked oddly like the guy from one of the insurance commercials on TV…
“Vin!” he called walking toward his tired looking agent. “What happened? You free to go? Was this some big mistaken identity SNAFU or what?”
“It’s all good, Chris,” Vin replied, patting his boss’s upper arm. “One of those things – I got look-a-likes,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “None as good lookin’ as me, of course,” he added with a wink.
“So it’s true, then – these other guys – in the FBI and the CIA and wherever – you all look alike, but you’re all different…”
“Of course we’re different!” Vin scoffed. “I ain’t got the time to do one job here in Denver with all the crazy shit we get into, how’s anyone expect me to be in four different places around the country at the same time! Shit, Larabee!”
Vin walked toward the door, pulling out his reclaimed cell phone, muttering, “Hell, JD’s already left me six text messages asking if I’m part of some sci fi cloning experiment.”
Chris looked around and noticed that the black man was nowhere to be seen.
“Vin? Who is Theodore Morris?”


Author’s Note: The title of this fic is actually the name of a class offered to police agencies (VIN meaning Vehicle Identification Number). Of course, every time I see that I think Vin, not VIN. But this time, it struck me enough to write about it…