Kansas Man Wins Chevy Corvette Seizure Case Against State29
Just like a lot of car people, Richard Martinez always wanted to own a Chevy Corvette. He worked hard, saved his money, and after searching for decades, found just the right car. Mr. Martinez’s dream Corvette was a 1959 in Roman Red with an Ermine White cove, red vinyl interior and a hardtop. He found it in Merrillville, Indiana at classic car dealer Jabaay Motors. After negotiating an agreeable price, Mr. Martinez put down $30,000, financing the remaining $20,000 through the dealership. He was overjoyed, but it wouldn’t last long.
Upon getting his classic Chevy Corvette back to Kansas, Mr. Martinez took it to the state inspection station for a pre-registration inspection, which is mandatory in Kansas. During the course of the inspection, it was revealed the VIN plate, mounted on the driver’s side hinge post, had been previously removed during restoration and re-installed using incorrect rivets. In the state of Kansas, this is illegal, as the plate could have been altered or replaced by that of another car.
From the affidavit by state trooper Dave Albers, “During the required inspection of the vehicle, I discovered that the VIN affixed to the driver’s side hinge post was incorrect and was attached with non-factory rivets… this indicates that the original VIN has been destroyed, removed, altered, or defaced in some way.” In addition to the incorrect rivets, there was a discrepancy on the Illinois title, where the car was last registered. From the affidavit: “On the title, the fourth character on the VIN should have been an “S” indicating a plant code of St. Louis, showing where these vehicles were manufactured, instead of a “5” which provides no used data. The switch of a number for a letter is inconsistent with the way that VINs are assigned to individual vehicles.”
These discrepancies led the trooper to search for other locations on the Chevy Corvette which would show the VIN. The serial number on the engine was of no help, as it was a replacement engine, a pretty common occurrence in cars this old. “In order to attempt to identify this particular Corvette with some degree of certainty and to determine that it was not stolen, I began to search for the confidential VINs (CVIN) that are on the frame or in other hidden locations on almost all vehicles.”
“I located two areas on the frame of the vehicle where the CVINs should have been. This location showed extensive grinding and stippling of the metal. The grinding and stippling of the CVINs rendered them unreadable, even with the subsequent efforts to raise the numbers. These two small areas were the only spots on the frame that showed this grinding and stippling. This isolated alteration lead (sic) me to believe that it was not the result of any repair or frame work, but a deliberate attempt to obliterate the identifying numbers on the vehicle.”
In Kansas, if the VIN on a vehicle is found to be altered or previously removed, or if the VIN located on other parts of the car has been altered or destroyed, the car is considered contraband and is seized. That is exactly what happened to Mr. Martinez’s Chevy Corvette. The Kansas Highway Patrol contacted the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) for assistance in determining if the Corvette was stolen, but it was not among those in the NICB database. There was no indication any crime had been committed. Despite the lack of evidence the Corvette was stolen, the state of Kansas still seized the car as contraband.
This was just the beginning of Mr. Martinez’s woes. The State of Kansas filed suit, but not against Mr. Martinez. In Kansas, if a vehicle is seized, the state files suit against the vehicle itself, not the owner. The state admits that Mr. Martinez was unaware of the VIN issues when he purchased the Chevy Corvette, and is not guilty of any crime. Over the ensuing six years, Mr. Martinez would incur $30,000 in legal fees trying to recover his Corvette. The State of Kansas did a poor job of storing the Corvette, and damage to the car is estimated at $28,000.
It wasn’t until the Kansas Justice Institute, a non-profit firm committed to defending against government overreach and abuse, got involved in the summer of 2021 that there seemed to be any hope for Mr. Martinez. In an amicus brief filed in the case, the KJI argues the statute requiring seizure of the Corvette violates due process, as Mr. Martinez was not aware of the [VIN] issues and defects, and he is an innocent owner. KJI urged the court to protect Mr. Martinez’s property rights, as the Chevy Corvette owner, further citing the KHP recognizing Mr. Martinez’s innocence.
News of this case has been well covered, from Chevy Corvette and other auto publications, podcasts and webpages. It has gotten significant press, and managed to make it to some of the needed ears. The Kansas House voted to approve a bill that would amend state law on antique vehicles to work around the statute declaring a vehicle or trailer with a “destroyed, removed, altered or defaced” VIN must be seized as contraband and reduced to scrap metal. On March 22nd, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed House Bill 2594 into law. Mr. Martinez will be getting his Corvette back.
In speaking with Mr. Martinez, he said, “Our laws are outdated and in the case, it took too many years for justice to be served, especially when no crime was committed. The law in this matter should be universal because people buy restored cars all across the country, and old laws like this put buyers, sellers, shops and auctions at risk.”
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Did the State of Kansas reimburse Mr. Martinez for the estimated $28,000 for doing a poor job of storing the Corvette?
Six years is to long for justice to be served. Hopefully it doesn’t take that long to get fully reimbursed for ALL costs.
Incomplete article. Martinez got the car back, but did the state pay for damages is not addressed.
It is yet to be determined.
i could right complete articles better than this and i’m no journalist!
If there was no other claimant for the car, the cops should just make the car info available for 90 days, asking for anyone who might think it’s their stolen car. If It can’t be proven……give the car to it’s new owner. The Kansas Cops were over-reaching legal buffoons in this one.Justva bunch of tight ass Republican mid west Stooges.
Unbelievable some idiot Tom brings politics into this blunder. Dumb ass
Despite it being a dumb law, the cops were following the law as it was written. It must really suck to be you and get politically triggered by an article about a classic car.
Why didn’t the State of Kansas go after Jabbay Motors through the Indiana Justice Department?
It seems like the Indiana State Police should visit Jabbay Motors and check ALL their vehicles. Being a automobile dealer, they should have known everything the Kansas State Police knows about VINs!
Maybe not! Write not right. Bwahahaha!!!
…. and pay all his legal bills?
With the two CVINs ground off, I guessing that this probably was a stolen vehicle.
Not only does this article NOT tell you whether the state of Kansas reimbursed Martinez for the $28K in damages the car incurred while being improperly stored for all those years,, BUT
This article also doesn’t tell us whether Martinez was ever also reimbursed for his legal costs!
We want to know! Give us a follow-up on those two items,, Please!!
Both issues still remain to be determined.
The horror of making a sincere purchase with no intent to commit a crime. and as it says, the buyer did not have a lawsuit , kansas took out a lawsuit against the car???
and not the seller???
outdated law, and WE and YOU always suffer. always.
An amateur restorer of a vehicle may make mistakes in the process. An “out of state” purchaser of the restored vehicle often has serious problems if this occurs. A friend of mine had to go through this. Police seem to acerbate the problem, rather than solve it.
Just happy the man got the car back ,I would throw one hell of a party
Serial number grinding on the frame in two locations is suspect. Especially after chemical treatment of the grinding could not raise the serial number in two places. Could a chain of ownership search in Indiana records have been done? What about the classic car dealer in Indiana purchase acquisition history? Insurance Company VIN records? Who did Jabaay Motors in Indiana purchase this vehicle from? From there start the chain or ownership events. Glad that Martinez prevailed. Martinez has a valid claim against Jabaay. Hope Jabaay is insured against errors and omissions.
The only winners, per usual, are the lawyers……….*sigh*
The 1959 corvette has its factory vin plate put on with 2 small Phillips screws ..not rivets..the original plate was either lost or changed on purpose..may have been lost and restorer thought no big deal..if the frame numbers under driver seat were ground off that is a concern..the buyer did nothing wrong so any problem should fall back to dealer to help ..vin was moved mid 1960 to tack weld to sterrind column in engine bay.
This is a a tremendous example of buyer beware. It’s one thing to buy the car of your dreams, but if you’re only using your heart and not your head, stuff like this can happen easily. As for the “S” versus “5” situation, I see that sort of thing frequently in my appraisal business. Back when this car was new all paperwork was done by hand, literally, with maybe a typewriter used for some documents. If one person cannot read another person’s handwriting, then guessing comes in the picture. I’ve seen where a “3” should have been an “8”, or a “B”, an “S” could be a “5” or even a “2”. Getting the serial number wrong on ownership documents isn’t the only thing. How about the year of the car being wrong, or even the make or model?
Long story short, anyone considering buying a collector vehicle needs to know what they’re looking at and what to look for to determine that what they think they’re buying as really what they’re getting.
Adding comment to unclick the “notify me” box
The funny part of the story is I don’t think anybody hired a Corvette expert. Early 1950s Corvette all the way into 60 s it wasn’t until the next body style came but they started putting rivets in the 1950s they had aluminum plates oval and shape with Philip head screws in them. The main serial number for that car is on the main frame about where the driver’s seat is so the body has to be lifted up and the serial numbers are there under a rubber pad that holds the body and place. Sometimes it’s in plain view on the top of the frame but the body has to be lifted up and cleaned the frame and you can see it with a mirror. I’m sure the officer was looking in the wrong spot for what he thought should be serial numbers to the car. I restored many of the 1950s Corvette. The serial number flight and the serial numbers are often rusted away on these Corvettes the screws that hold the data plate on rust away . In this phone case seems to be more of a State trooper highway patrolman didn’t really care for the owner’s last name … I even would think the dealership sold in the car would be able to help him out…. I’m very happy you got to start back
I was at a insurance car auction years ago when a out of state buyer bought a totally burnt Corvette for over ten thousand dollars ! When I say totaled I mean burnt ! The entire tyranny was melted , nothing left but the burnt gears . The engine was almost unrecognizable. Having been in the auto body business for fourty years there was Not One part that was salvageable ! The only part of that car was a TITLE . He bought the title so someone could use it to sell a stolen Corvette .
BREAKING BAD! At $10K for just the Corvette’s title there must have been several bad actors bidding on the burned vehicle just for the paper title to play this game. Now with Onstar and future Blockchain recording this scam can be nipped in the bud.
Check vehicle vin. AND title vin. BEFORE you pay any money. Old cars and old car sales are slippery at best.
Hopefully he will reimbursed for ALL costs incurred for this typical overreach of the Gov. And as for the moron Trumpsux dude.. that’s typical for a liberal idiot to say. I’m sure you think things are just grand in the U.S. with that moron Biden at the helm. What a Dche you are.