At least seven people in French-speaking Switzerland were defrauded by the same 23-year-old young man who robbed them of their car. Accidents that remind us of the importance of never being separated from the driving license of your vehicle.
“I didn’t know you could make a duplicate of my car registration document so easily”: Torsten learned that the hard way a few weeks ago when he received a message from the person who drove off with his car that he got cheated. “He wrote to me: your vehicle has been sold, I’m sorry. You can go to the police if you want”, he told RTS on Monday at 19:30.
For this Genevan, it is the beginning of a long ordeal to try to recover his car, a Mercedes AMG GTS, which he thought of selling to Dylan R. for almost 100,000 francs. Thanks to two articles published in the press in November 2021, he learned that Dylan R. was not at his first attempt. At least seven people have already filed a complaint against him since spring 2021 in the cantons of Vaud, Valais and Neuchâtel.
Mercedes AMG GTS, which Torsten had stolen. [DR]
No power of attorney required
The mechanics were well oiled. The 23-year-old goes through classified ads on the Internet and contacts sellers. He pretends to be an insurance company that buys cars for its customers, or in Torsten’s case for the owner of a garage in Aigle (VD). He takes the car to try out the so-called customer and doesn’t mind letting the salesman take a picture of his Swiss ID.
Then he postpones the agreed meeting to gain time. Just enough to go to the auto office, change the name of the circulation permit and become the legitimate holder. With a gray card in his name, he can easily resell the vehicle to a workshop or a private person and pocket the money.
Once you have given the gray card to someone, you cannot prevent them from going and registering your car in their name.
Roger Jenny, director of risk and quality management at the Geneva Cantonal Vehicles Office, lists the documents required to change the holder: “The identity document in your name, the original gray card of the vehicle you want to register and a certificate insurance in your name .” No power of attorney is required from the original owner, either at the auto office or with the insurance.
Stories like these, Romain Riether knows some of them. This lawyer, a member of the Avocats de la Route network, warns vehicle owners: “Once you’ve given the gray card to someone, you actually lose some control over the vehicle. And you can’t prevent that person from having it registered in their name and then sold it, for example to a garage, which would have acquired it in good faith.
However, Torsten had been careful to keep his car’s license: “I don’t think I was negligent. I had checked his name on the Internet and saw that he had a limited company: that gave him confidence. So I asked him to come along garage plates, which he did. I kept my car registration document and asked him for a deposit of 10,000 francs. We signed a promise of sale and I had a copy of his identity card. So I really thought I was safe,” it emphasizes forty years old.
However, he will make a mistake, namely canceling his circulation permit. Dylan R. makes him believe that his alleged client wants to buy the car and that the cancellation of it is necessary to make a lease. But the cancellation of his card will allow the thug to request a duplicate.
It is recommended to first cancel the gray card after payment
How was Dylan R. so easily able to receive a reproduction of the registration document for the vehicle he had just stolen? “As long as the circulation permit is not cancelled, only the holder can request a duplicate”, replies Roger Jenny from the car office. Otherwise, you can easily get a copy of a canceled card. “This is why it is recommended to cancel the gray card only after payment”, he insists.
Buyer’s good or bad faith
Through these administrative loopholes, which were not known to the general public, Torsten was legally deprived of his car. “The police found it, it is registered in Zurich, with a private person who is probably driving it around. At the moment I cannot recover it.”
Since Dylan R. is insolvent, the victims have little chance of getting their money back. Especially since the insurance companies generally refuse to get involved. “These people are waiting for a long procedure to try to prove that the buyer has bought in bad faith. Good faith will be central to determining who gets the car”, explains Romain Riether. For example, a garage that would have bought a Ferrari at half price from someone who doesn’t seem to have any money will have a harder time convincing them of their good faith.
Torsten, who acts as a spokesman for the Dylan R. victims’ group he joined on WhatsApp, says he is shocked at how easily it is possible to re-register a vehicle without any kind of verification. “I think it’s amazing that you can steal a vehicle like that, that this person is still free, that he’s likely to continue to steal from other people.”
Since Torsten’s testimony, we have learned that Dylan R. was arrested by the police. But this person is probably not acting alone, it remains preferable in the future to never give up his circulation license before payment.