Investigations

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Grey Market Vehicle Importer, President to Pay $1.5 Million

Container Services, Inc., a vehicle importation company in Miami, FL, and its president Nicole G. Schmitt of Miami Beach, were each ordered by a U.S. District Court judge in Miami to pay restitution of $625,000 for illegally smuggling and selling 45 luxury cars in the U.S. valued in excess of $1.5 million. The defendants imported the vehicles under the “foreign national exception,” which allows short-term visitors to bring their cars into the country without having to pay taxes on them. They then fraudulently titled and sold the vehicles without bringing them into compliance with DOT safety and EPA environmental standards or paying U.S. Customs duties. Both defendants were also prohibited from dealing in the importation of any vehicles. Container Services, Inc. was also sentenced to 2 years probation and fined $10,000 fine. Schmitt also received 4 months in a community treatment center, 4 months home detention, and 2 years supervised release. Four other defendants pleaded guilty in December 2001. OIG investigated this case with EPA, the U.S. Customs Service, and NHTSA.