Bob Brown thought his truck was lost forever but a few months ago he received a call he couldn't believe, an agency more known for insurance statistics than police work had found his classic car in a salvage yard in Mexico.
“When I lost it, I just checked off $20,000. I put it on my income tax,” said Brown of Grover Beach, Calif.
Brown didn't have theft insurance on his 1957 Chevy pickup, so when it was stolen shortly after Christmas in 2015, it was a big loss. And even though his truck was only one of two in the area, police could not find it.
“There's an auto theft task force out of San Diego County that vigorously searched for the vehicle,” said Grover Beach Police Commander Angelo Limon.
They found the suspect after he posted a picture on Facebook bragging about a shiny red Chevy he claimed he got for Christmas, but police struggled to track down the car.
Turns out, it was because the Chevy wasn't in California, it wasn't in the United States.
“Just this past summer, one of our vendors in Mexico saw it down there in a lot, just inquired about it and found the report, knew it was stolen and that set everything in motion,” said Frank Scafidi, Director of Public Affairs with the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).
An NICB agent put the missing car in their database, when the NICB vendor ran the VIN, they got a match.
Brown paid the shipping fees and said he'll be notifying the IRS. He also plans to invest another $20,000 into restoring the classic pickup and changing the color from red to white.
“I am just so grateful to that crew down there for finding my truck and they were just so nice,” Brown said.
NICB typically works for insurance companies investigating thefts and fraud, but they're also a resource for law enforcement.
“We work on these task forces with law enforcement where irrespective of a vehicle being insured or not, we help them locate, we help them identify stolen vehicles,” Scafidi said.
They've been doing that for 106 years with their people all over the world. And in that time, they've had some unique recoveries, but even more rare, a happy reunion.
“Every time I drive that truck I'll be thinking and thanking you folks. Thanks again, Bob Brown,” said Brown reading a letter he wrote to the NICB.
According to FBI crime data, the recovery rate for stolen cars is 59 percent.
Scafidi said it depends whether an owner will be notified if a stolen vehicle is recovered. If insurance paid the claim and police find the car, the insurance company legally owns the vehicle.