Consumer Watch: little known, odd Kentucky car law uncovered


by Andy Treinen

Posted on March 16, 2011 at 6:07 PM

(WHAS11)  Some suspected car thieves were caught in the act, posing as a tow company, and we have the surveillance video that shows it; but when the victim contacted WHAS11’s Andy Treinen, we discovered an odd law in Kentucky that may have actually drawn the suspects to the victim’s car.

Sean Madden said he thought it was a joke when he showed up to work at Lewis Door Service in his company vehicle and his personal vehicle was gone.  Madden didn’t know what to think.  “Heartbroken, really; I liked my van and you know it was a nice van, and now it’s in pieces and shambles,” said Madden.

You can see those pieces and shambles in our video, but first the pictures that police used to make arrests

Lewis Door Service has eight cameras in its parking lot.  Madden showed us the video surveillance.  “Here he comes in the Rollback, and he pulls up right in front of the camera,” explained madden, “Six minutes later, you see my van just leaving, driving off, you just have to wave to it; bye, bye.”

Fortunately for Madden, LMPD has a task force specifically assigned to this kind of crime and they had seen this Dodge Ram Rollback before.  “The next day, our task force went by the scrap yard and they were able to find the suspects still with their tow truck, still with the van, at the parking lot of the scrap yard,” said Detective Dave Allen; but by then, the van was virtually unrecognizable, by even its owner.

Detective Allen escorted us into the police impound lot to take a look; it’s become kind of a grave yard for cars.  “They cut the doors off, smashed the windshield out and tore the hood off.  They tried to rip some of the VIN numbers off and they did significant damage to it, to make it look worse than it truly was,” said Allen.

The three men caught in the act are Travis Lausman, Mathew Baumler and Jose Madrigal.  Lausman and Baumler are charged with unlawful taking of an auto, and Madrigal is charged with receiving stolen property.  “Actually, the guy called into the scrap yard and said he’s going to be there, so they [LMPD] staked-out the scrap yard for a few hours and sure enough he showed with my van on his Rollback; gotcha, gotcha,” said Madden.

While police call this a crime of opportunity, the opportunity is more appealing for thieves if you have an older vehicle.  In the state of Kentucky, any car older than a 1998 can be scrapped without a title or proof of purchase.  “It’s a very odd law.  It almost promotes theft,” expressed an exasperated Madden.

Madden had to pay $75 to have his van towed off of the police impound lot and to a scrap yard, where he got $329 dollars for the metal.  “There goes your van; bye, bye van,” said Madden.  A van that was Sean’s only personal means of transportation.

“Nobody wins here; the bad guy went to jail, the scrap yard didn’t get anything from this, and our victim is out a vehicle.  Nobody wins,” said Allen.

Police are still trying to determine if this theft was part of a bigger crime ring.  All the men involved have previous criminal records.  They have all pleaded not guilty to this crime and are out on bond awaiting trial.