Double VIN prompts car dealer search

‘I don’t sell stolen cars,’ owner of Mershon’s World of Cars says.

By Megan Gildow-Anthony?and Matt Sanctis, Friday, May 25, 2012

SPRINGFIELD — One Vehicle Identification Number linked to two vehicles led investigators to search Mershon’s World of Cars on Thursday.

The Springfield News-Sun obtained search warrant documents filed Friday in the Clark County Municipal Court.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Vehicle Theft Unit served a warrant Thursday at the classic car dealership to search for altered and tampered vehicle identification numbers.

Authorities seized two cars, two VIN plates and six data trim tags, the documents said.

Owner Dan Mershon said he has been in business for three decades and had never had a problem with the law.

He said the investigation should have been handled more respectfully, and said no criminal activity took place at his business.

“Obviously, I don’t sell stolen cars,” Mershon said.

The investigation started in March when a man who purchased a 1967 Corvette from Mershon’s in 1994 discovered his title had been canceled, said Lt. Anne Ralston, public information officer for the OSHP.

“It was canceled because of that second purchase with a vehicle with the same VIN on it,” Ralston said.

Vehicle Identification Numbers are individual serial numbers assigned to every vehicle.

“VIN numbers are unique. They identify that specific vehicle and then there are what are called confidential VIN numbers,” said Ralston.

“(Confidential VIN numbers are) located on different places in the vehicle that you would cross reference to determine the validity of the vehicle,” he said.

When investigators inspected the second vehicle, another ’67 Corvette, they linked a second VIN number and discovered the car was reported stolen in Texas in 1973 and never recovered, she said.

The patrol investigation is ongoing.

“I know we are working with the prosecutor’s office there in Clark County, and it’s going to be a continuing investigation,” said Ralston.

Mershon was in business at the Car and Parts Springfield Swap Meet and Car Show on Friday at the Clark County Fairgrounds.

He said authorities seized a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle because the vehicle’s motor had no identification number on it. Mershon said those numbers are commonly removed when an engine is rebuilt, and it could have happened at any point over the life of the vehicle.

Authorities also seized a 1965 Pontiac GTO, which Mershon said was taken because an identification number underneath the vehicle was not legible.

Mershon said it was unnecessary to send a large number of investigators to his business. If authorities had questions, he said, they could have sent a couple of officers, and he said he would be happy to work with them.

“To be frank, they spent the whole day there with 20 guys,” Mershon said. “They had to walk away with something.”

“Theft is a very common offense,” said Ralston. “Motor vehicle theft obviously happens all over the country and all over the state of Ohio. It’s something that the Ohio Highway Patrol looks for on every traffic stop we make.”

VIN tampering is one sign a vehicle may be stolen, and authorities look for numbers that don’t match at the various points of VIN location, plates that appear to be lifted or have altered numbers and plates that use different rivets than the manufacturer, she said.

“People do tamper with VINs,” Ralston said. “It’s probably less common than just someone stealing it as part of a crime, maybe they commit a crime and stole a vehicle to get away or a joyride.”

Copyright © 2012 Springfield News-Sun, Springfield, Ohio, USA.All rights reserved.

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