The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Strange but True

December 2009, by Lauren Fletcher - Also by this author

Don't Smuggle Your Wife in the Company Car

A fleet manager received a call from a company driver reporting his company vehicle had been confiscated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

The individual, from Southern California, had recently married a Mexican woman. Against company policy, the couple drove the employee's leased fleet vehicle to Mexico to visit the wife's family. On the return trip, the U.S. customs officer asked each how long the couple had been in Mexico and the purpose of their visit.

The two said they were visiting family in Mexico for three days. Due to the wife's Mexican accent, the customs officer requested documentation proving her U.S. residence, but the only ID she had indicated her Mexican address.

Insisting she was a U.S. resident living in Los Angeles, the employee's wife could not produce proper documentation. The fleet employee was told to leave his wife at the customs office and return to Los Angeles to retrieve the marriage license. The employee said he would return his wife to her parents' home, and then travel to Los Angeles to retrieve the marriage certificate.

After driving a short distance from the border, the fleet employee hid his wife in the vehicle's trunk and once again approached the border.

The customs officer remembered him and searched the car, including the trunk, discovering the hidden wife. The officer impounded the vehicle and suggested the fleet driver rent a car, retrieve his marriage certificate, and return for his wife.

The employee rented the car, drove his wife a short distance from the border, and again hid her in the trunk of the rental car. The strategy did not work, and his wife was discovered again.

This time, however, the INS arrested the employee for attempting to smuggle an "undocumented resident" across the border. The company car was confiscated. The company and the leasing company could not persuade the customs office or the Mexican government to release the vehicle. The driver was released after a few days, but the company had to purchase the vehicle.

Eventually, the employee showed up with his marriage certificate and charges were dropped. However, since the employee violated company policy, he was terminated, and the company sued him for the value of the vehicle.

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Stephen Levine was the fleet manager for Pfizer for 22 years, director of U.S. Fleet, and the 1999 Professional Fleet Manager of the Year.

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