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12/07/2009

ICE seizes rare $700,000 Italian sports car

Authorities say Cizeta's owner violated U.S. import laws

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents served a seizure warrant Monday morning at a classic car showroom in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., where they took possession of a "one-of-a kind" Italian sports car valued at more than $700,000.

The 1994 Cizeta V16 was loaded onto a flatbed truck and transported to a secure government storage facility. The car is one of fewer than a dozen such vehicles produced by automotive engineer Claudio Zampoli in a joint venture with music composer Giorgio Moroder.

ICE investigators allege Zampoli, who lives in Orange County, violated U.S. customs and environmental laws when he brought the car into the United States in February 2001. According to the affidavit filed in support of the seizure warrant, Zampoli's import agent stated on customs documents submitted when the car entered the country that it was worth $125,000, even though the car originally sold new for approximately $600,000. The import form and related documentation also stated the vehicle was being brought in for temporary use, specifically maintenance and repairs, and had to be exported within one year. In addition to the customs violations, investigators say the car does not comply with U.S. environmental and transportation safety regulations.

"Make no mistake, the illegal importation of gray market vehicles like this is not just a technical violation," said Miguel Unzueta, special agent in charge for the ICE Office of Investigations in Los Angeles. "Cars that don't meet U.S. standards are outlawed for a reason. These vehicles can pose a real threat to public health and safety."

The Cizeta will remain in storage while authorities seek to have it forfeited to the federal government. If the vehicle is forfeited, it will be offered for sale at a public auction. Since the vehicle does not meet U.S. environmental and safety standards, any domestic buyer would have to export the car following its purchase.

ICE received substantial assistance with the case from the U.S. Attorney's Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Editor's Note: Still photos and ICE video of the seized vehicle are available. The video will be distributed later today via Telco under a prior arrangement with KABC. KABC will put out a media advisory on City News Service with more information on the feed. The photos may be obtained by calling ICE Public Affairs at (949) 360-3096.