I am going to address the industry of forensic locksmithing as applied to reported stolen vehicles to determine how the vehicle was last driven.
I can state in my opinion over the last decade, this industry has been a total fraud, a Con, a Scam. The industry is used as a third party investigation tool to accuse the insured of involvement of a bogus theft claim. This has devastated insureds financially, reputations destroyed as well when prosecuted, conviction rates are very high.
Someone could argue that my opinion is just sour grapes and that I have no facts to support my opinions. That my examination methods are secret and are what should be applied. The opposing lawyers try everything possible to attack me to diminish anything I say.
Well, here it is, my opinion about this fraudulent industry is one thing, it is quite another to be supported by fact and that it is.
Forensic locksmithing in its current state thrives on ignorance. The less one knows about auto theft and how forensics is supposed to play a role, the better it is for the expert using a bogus forensic title.
It is meant to be perceived that being self taught in forensics, that the examination processes I use are strictly subjective and that I am wrong and everyone in the industry is right. The truth of the matter is that my forensic methodology is built on a nationally accepted guide, which in courts is commonly used as the standard to fire investigation, the NFPA 921. I have taken the information from there and applied it to any type of vehicle examination I am doing. This can be for the origin and cause of a vehicle fire. A potential defect that may prompt a recall, and of course vehicle thefts.
How can you use methods applied in fire investigation and relate them to a theft? The subject matter may be different, but the principles are the same.
I apply what I know about theft and use those principals. Using the scientific method, everything is required to be scientifically verifiable. To be scientifically verifiable, another examiner should be able to apply the same principles, examine the same evidence and reach the exact same conclusion.
The first problem I run into opposing one of these experts commonly, evidence such as the ignition lock was never removed or retained. First, that means they never disassembled the ignition lock to determine if there were identifiable marks in the tumblers that could be traced back to a specific key.
Since there was no evidence retained and the vehicle was disposed of, how can someone replicate the examination? The examination obviously can’t be replicated. The conclusion however is a one size fits all and will blend in with any examination. It does not specify the recent use of a specific key, but instead the use of any key. The conclusion is ready made for any report and assumed to be the insured’s key was last used. The conclusion is the vehicle was last driven with a key of the proper type. This encompasses any key, the insureds first key, second key, and in the case of a used car, an unaccounted for key. It can be a thief’s key. This conclusion covers it all and everything else in the report is all fluff.
To demonstrate this farther, a vehicle does not even need to be recovered and the physical evidence examined. There are “forensic” reports written on vehicles that were never recovered and the conclusion of proper key fits perfectly! This is what we are dealing with folks! Deception that controls the destiny on an insured’s life!
Insurance defense attorneys are good at twisting fact to defend their client. After all the defense of their client is their job, but they take it to the extreme. I am going to lay out real statements made by experts to support their stance of insured involvement. To the novice, it sounds like there is a good reason of motive on the part of the insured. As I address further, you will see pure speculation serving as fact by the expert. The defense gets mad at me because I rain on their parade, but all I want to see is fact and truth. Both of which, I don’t seem to find in any forensic report I review on reported stolen vehicles.
Let’s start with a Texas case. The names won’t be mentioned to protect the guilty. (Insurance company and expert)
We start with a reported stolen 2 wheel drive Dodge Ram. The expert examines the vehicle. This vehicle was equipped with what is known as a POD key. The ignition has no wafers (tumblers) and the only reason for the key blade being attached to the key fob is if battery power is lost, the key can be inserted into the driver’s door lock to unlock the door. Other key’s used for this vehicle, are just a plastic key fob. The plastic key fob is inserted into the ignition socket in the dash.
There are also after market kits in which one can install a simple start button and the key fob sits in a pocket or purse.
It is very interesting as to how the expert plays mind reader into the un-caught thief’s mind as to why he did or did not do something. Yet, this is done all the time by these experts and the statements made by the experts are treated as fact. After all they are forensic, which must make them clarevoyent as well! They are the experts, how dare you dare question them?
From the way the report was written, I was bias towards the client the insurance carrier, where only facts should have been addressed without the commentary diluting the facts.
This vehicle was recovered what I would call stripped. The engine and components associated with it including the computer, radiator and transmission were all missing. All wheels and tires on this dually had been switched except for the left front. The flat bed and additional fuel tank were missing.
The ignition socket was broken. With the socket being broken, it could no longer incorporate a key fob. This damage was considered by the expert to be caused by the insured attempting to make the ignition look like it was defeated. In other words a staged theft. It is possible that this vehicle was subject of a staged theft, but it is also possible it wasn’t. The expert in his report assumed it was staged without having any evidence to confirm or deny.
He then attempted to get the mileage to te vehicle, but could not get the ignition in the on position. Instead, he used the oil change sticker that was about a year old.
He then went on as to how the engine in this type of truck was problematic and known for failure. To summarize the report, the ignition was damaged, and truck probably had bad engine, which had been removed to simulate a theft.
There were major issues in this assumption being treated as fact by the expert and defense attorney.
#1 How does the expert prove another key fob was not made for this vehicle? He had already established the vehicle had been force entered. He did the major mistake that most experts do. He relied on factory supplied information that does not take into consideration the after market. When I say after market, I am referring to locksmiths and thieves making keys to these vehicles using after market key programmers. This expert cannot prove one way or the other as to how this vehicle was last driven. The computer was not present to interrogate.
We don’t know why he ignition was damaged. Was it just an act of vandalism? No one knows, but the expert went far from his expertise assuming the damage was done by the insured to make it look like this was a theft.
The expert went on to say that the type of diesel that was in this truck was known for failure. To assume that this engine was bad and removed from the vehicle to make a false claim is ludicrous. The transmission was missing too! Whoever removed the engine was not a hack, pure professional! Wiring harnesses disconnected and not cut. If smart enough to remove the engine, would not have een stupid enough to damage the ignition to make it look like theft. I even asked if the insured had a mechanical background and was told he did not.
This truck could have been towed in seconds! Working for a repo company recently, it is conceivable to pick this truck up from the rear and be gone in 20 seconds! Did the expert consider towing or the use of a reprogrammed key fob? No!
He looked at this truck as a fraudulent claim. He supplied his report which initiated the investigation which led to the denial of the claim.
Was the expert aware of the condition of the engine from this truck? Of course not! It wasn’t present to examine. The narrative made was that someone went to extensive work to remove the engine and transmission because the engine was bad and then not knowing how to start the truck without the key fob destroyed the ignition. This is all conjecture on the part of the expert, but was used as fact in the investigation of the claim by the investigator. The investigator is only as good as the information with a slant the expert supplies.
We all know insurance companies are going to use experts that will write favorable reports for them. The problem is that these forensic exams are subjective and we are just supposed to take the expert’s word for it. Why? Why are we dealing with un-based opinion and masquerading the conclusion as fact without the supposition?
Here is an example used in a criminal case. You know, evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.
Vehicle: Reported stolen Chev Equinox recovered burned.
The prosecutions case was built on the forensic expert’s statement that the vehicle was last driven with a key of the proper type.
Expert states that appeared as though someone had been to the vehicle before him and the burn debris that had fallen to the driver’s floor appeared to be displaced. Consistent with someone digging through the burn debris.
Expert could not find the ignition lock or any remains of it. He had found a dent puller with a broken screw attached on the driver’s floor. His factual statement (sarcasm) was he did not locate the ignition, but if he would have found the ignition, it may have had the broken screw piece May have been in the keyway.
The expert also stated that the vehicle was equipped with the PK III transponder system, in which his company was not aware of this system being defeated.
In court when I testified, I demonstrated 5 different ways the vehicle could be stolen without the use of the insured’s keys. Because the vehicle was destroyed by fire, not one of those methods could be ruled out with forensics, and in this case, the ignition was not located. The fire damage took away any possibilities of determining if the PK III had been bypassed. The expert made appear as fact that because his company never saw te system bypassed it must not have never happened. That statement just demonstrated how ignorant he and his company were on the bypass of that system. Its been in use since 1997 and many know how to bypass the system.
In essence the facts to this case are is that the vehicle was reported stolen, recovered burned. As to how it was last driven the conclusion would be inconclusive due to lack of evidence.
Not only did the insured get denied on his theft claim, but he was left paying out thousands of dollars on a defense attorney and for my expert consultation. All because this expert wanted to look like a hero to the insurance company and prosecution!
Unfortunately, just about every report I review frm these insurance experts is the same ole’ assumption that is portrayed as fact.