Feds crush illegally imported car to send message

An imported car that sells for more than $20,000 has been turned into scrap at a New Jersey junkyard because it did not meet U.S. highway safety standards.

The Austin Mini Cooper that was scrapped Thursday at Price's Auto Recyclers in Plumsted Township was seized as part of an "Operation Atlantic" partnership between the U.S. and the United Kingdom to prevent such imports.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are trying to prevent those Minis and Land Rover Defenders that don't meet U.S. safety and emissions standards from entering the country.

The vehicles are seized from owners who thought they had followed proper procedures.

In the case of the Mini destroyed Thursday, Leon Hayward, assistant director of trade & cargo security at the U. S. Customs and Border Protection's New York Field Office, said the Mini left England destined for the Newark seaport, nj.com reports; the Mini was likely manufactured in 2000 but the Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, had been changed to disguise the car as a 1988 model in an effort to skirt federal safety and emission standards. Vehicles that are at least 25 years old are exempt from those standards.

"Since the vehicle's VIN was intentionally manipulated, destruction of the vehicle is our only recourse," Hayward says in the nj.com report. "We do not take such action lightly."