Car Stolen 13 Years Ago

(WSVN) - Thirteen years ago, he restored a car — a one of a kind Volkswagen. Then it was stolen and finally after all these years, he thinks he has found it, but has too much time passed to reclaim it? It’s why he called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

T.J. Murphy is great with his hands, and in 1999, turned his attention to an old Volkswagen he found.

T.J. Murphy, car stolen: “I have always rebuilt Volkswagens. Something I could enjoy.”

T.J. paid $300 for the car.

T.J. Murphy: “There were only four wires hanging out of the steering column.”

By the time he was through, he had spent $10,000 restoring the Volkswagen, but he says it was beautiful.

T.J. Murphy: “Immaculate. I used to take it to all the Volkswagen Beetle shows throughout the state.”

A few things made it a one of a kind car. Custom made white seats with blue trim, and for the paint job — another unusual twist.

T.J. Murphy: “I wanted them to tint the clear coat, so the clear coat had a blue tint to it.”

It was a great car, a crook certainly thought so.

T.J. Murphy: “It was stolen out of a car port April 2004.”

The car was never found. Then this year, T.J. was on Craigslist.

T.J. Murphy: “Thirteen years later and here it is. I find my car. Unbelievable.”

The car was for sale up in Martin County near Stuart. T.J. drove up to see it. The current owner had bought it after it had been in an accident.

T.J. Murphy: “I was shocked.”

T.J. says this car had the white seats with the custom blue trim and the clear coat with the blue tint.

T.J. Murphy: “It’s unmistakably my car. I mean, the interior is almost exactly like it was 13 years later.”

But there was a problem. The vin numbers on this VW don’t match T.J.’s 1971 VW. T.J. says the crook must have changed them. And he was told even if it is his old car, he can’t have it back.

T.J. Murphy: “From what I understand the problem is the amount of time that has expired since I lost the car, or since the car was stolen from me.”

“Not fair,” T.J. says. Not fair, and he wants this car back.

T.J. Murphy: “Any guy that ever works on a car, they have an attachment to it of course.”

Well Howard, if this is T.J.’s stolen VW, has too much time passed to get it back?

Howard Finkelstein: “No. T.J. has a right to recover his stolen car, no matter how much time has gone by, but only if he can prove it’s his car. Since the vin numbers do not match, in order to do that he would have to put up a bond and get a judge to seize the car to find a way to prove it is his.”

We spoke to the police in Coral Springs where the car was stolen 13 years ago.

They really did a lot of work to try to help.

They asked the sheriff where the car was for sale to go check on it. By then it was gone, and the owner was not around.

While the two visible vin numbers did not match T.J.’s old vehicle, there is a third vin number hidden near the top of the transmission.

Coral Springs police told me to get to it they would have to have probable cause that it was T.J.’s car, get a warrant, seize it and remove the parts to see that hidden number.

Police didn’t have enough proof to do that.

Howard says there’s another option — get a court order.

Howard Finkelstein: “For T.J. to check that third vin number, he would have to pay to take the car apart. Add the cost of the bond to seize it and court costs, and it would cost more than the vehicle is worth.”

T.J. is not going to pay to do that.

And there is another possibility — the thief who stole the car stripped it and put the parts in this car. T.J. says “Nah.” This is his old car.

T.J. Murphy: “There is no doubt. I am 100 percent. There’s no doubt in my mind.”

While there are statute of limitations for things like suing someone and most crimes like grand theft, there is no statute of limitations for recovering your own property, so if one of your relatives property was stolen years ago and you find it, your family is entitled to get it back.

Someone hit you with a classic problem? Ready for a custom made solution? Contact us. We can’t repair a car, but we can construct a one of a kind solution for you.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
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