JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It’s a scheme that often goes unnoticed, one that involves stolen cars, titles, even VINs. Police call it car cloning, and if caught, it could cost you thousands of dollars.
According to Jacksonville Sheriff's Office's records, one local car dealership has just fallen victim to this elaborate scheme.
Bo Marijanovic, owner of Drive Line in Jacksonville says, “It looks like a good deal. It checks out, but people are out thousands and thousands of dollars. I mean I’m out 40 grand.”
Marijanovic says he’s knows all the red flags to look for in a sketchy deal. But, unfortunately, this time around he couldn’t catch the signs of car cloning.
“Somebody had to remove the windshield, replace the plate on the front dash, print out the new GM sticker on the door to replace that VIN and then they had a title that was a good title.”
He says 26-year-old Jaron Locke approached him with a great deal to buy a 2019 Cadillac Escalade.
“Everything that normally would’ve been a red flag for me, he addressed before he even brought the car,” Marijanovic said.
Once the car was on the lot, still everything checked out. It was only after trying to get a new title at the DMV that it came up as a suspicious VIN and found it was stolen from Hertz in Orlando.
“There’s nothing that I could’ve done besides know about the secret VIN which I never heard of.”
Secret VINs that only the police could spot. Although, instead of confronting Locke,Marijanovic worked with JSO and several other agencies to catch him and his partner 27-year-old Emily Sue Ellen Denton in the act.
“It was like a movie scene, like, the guys just got out of the car and they walked up to see me, and all these cop cars showed up at the same time.”
And although both were taken into custody, Marijanovic says he’s hoping for some sort of restitution.
But he tells Action News Jax he’s not the first victim, “Oh I know I’m not. They’ve been doing this across many states and from my understanding this is a much larger thing.”
Marijanovic says since becoming a victim of car cloning and learning how to spot it, he wants to make sure no one else gets scammed like him so he’s offering to check people’s vehicles for them.
The Florida Highway Safety says if you want to check for potential car cloning, click here to verify a car's VIN.
Cox Media Group