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California Automobile Importer Fined for Illegally Importing Automobiles

On July 25, Claus R. Graeter, president of Registered Importer Corporation (d/b/a Graycar Consultancy Corporation), Oxnard, CA, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, CA to pay $13,000 in fines and restitution for making a false statement and for conspiracy in connection with the importation of luxury automobiles. As a NHTSA-approved Registered Importer (RI), Graeter allegedly imported vehicles (including Lotus Elises and BMW Smart Cars which were not manufactured to conform to United States safety or EPA emissions standards), and then registered them in various states using falsified NHTSA, U.S. Customs, and EPA forms.

The falsifications, including statements that the vehicles were for personal temporary use and would not be resold, permitted exemption from U.S. Customs duties and from DOT safety and EPA emission standards for a one-year period. Graeter subsequently resold the automobiles instead of converting them to meet U.S. safety and emissions standards, exporting the vehicles, or forfeiting them to the U.S. government, as required by DOT regulations. In December 2004, Graeter pled guilty to the felony charges of making a false statement and conspiracy in connection with four of the imported vehicles. NHTSA has initiated action to revoke Graeter’s RI designation. The investigation was conducted jointly with the EPA and DHS-ICE, with assistance from NHTSA.