A new partnership between the National Equipment Register (NER) and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is beginning to put a dent in heavy equipment theft with the recovery of more than $100,000 in stolen equipment in Pennsylvania.
Working with the Pennsylvania State Police, the NER utilized its specialized database of stolen equipment as the NICB marshaled its unique investigative expertise to quickly identify and recover the equipment.
The case unfolded this July when an equipment buyer in rural Lancaster County, PA was approached with prices too good to be true. Concerned about the legitimacy of the proposed sale, the suspicious buyer reported the unusually low prices to law enforcement. The Pennsylvania State Police were notified and discovered more than 30 skid steer loaders on a small farm.
The Pennsylvania State Police, working with the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), identified nearly two thirds of the units as stolen by matching the machine’s Product Identification Numbers (PIN) to theft reports on national police and insurance computers. For assistance in identifying the remaining pieces, NICB Special Agents Jack Quinn and William Sutch called the National Equipment Register (NER) and accessed NER’s databases and expertise under the partnership arrangement the two organizations initiated earlier this year.
PIN numbers were found on seven machines but no matching theft report had been found. NER identified the owners of these items from its databases of over 25,000 loss reports and 8 million ownership records. When the owners or insurers were contacted they confirmed that the machines had been stolen. It emerged that a number of the thefts had been reported incorrectly, with one owner reporting a valid PIN that belonged to a different piece of equipment in his fleet.
The thieves added new model decals to one piece to match the model type of the fraudulent numbers that had been applied to the machine. Two items had PIN plates still attached but when NER identified and contacted the owners it was confirmed that the equipment had not been stolen – but that the PIN plates of the machines were missing. Neither owner had noticed the disappearance of the plates. As in the above case, NER directed the investigators to secondary numbers who used these to identify the equipment. One piece had all visible and most hidden numbers removed so NER and NICB worked with the manufacturer to cross-reference component numbers to identify the piece.
David Shillingford, president of NER, observed that “the partnership between NER and NICB was designed to combine the skills of NICB agents and the information on NER’s databases to the best effect for insurers and equipment owners and this case dramatically proves that this is the result of our partnership. The case also underlines the need for owners to report losses swiftly and accurately to law enforcement, to ensure that their entire fleet is registered with NER and to look for and report missing PIN plates.”
Robert M. Bryant, NICB president and chief executive officer, said that “theft of heavy equipment, such as agricultural and construction equipment is a costly problem for insurers. As the Pennsylvania case vividly illustrates, NICB’s partnership with NER already is generating real dollar savings to equipment owners and member companies of NICB. The combination of a robust database, new technology and investigative expertise is critical in successfully fighting insurance crime.”
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