DETROIT (CN) – An insurer sued the FBI, asking what its agent was doing in a stolen $750,000 Ferrari when he smashed it into a tree, with a federal prosecutor along for the ride. The insurer says the FBI man fishtailed and crashed the car “within only a few seconds of leaving the warehouse where the vehicle was being stored.”
The insurer says the Ferrari F50 was stolen from a dealer in 2003, was recovered by the FBI and police in 2008, and was smashed up in May 2009, when it “was taken for a drive by FBI Special Agent Frederick C. Kingston and Assistant United States Attorney J. Hamilton Thompson.”
In its federal FOIA complaint, Motors Insurance Corp. says it “has not been informed about the reasons why Special Agent Kingston and Assistant United States Attorney Thompson were driving the vehicle.”
Motors Insurance says the FBI stiff-armed its requests for information about what the FBI agent was doing with the hot Ferrari.
The only document the FBI has produced was an email sent the day of the accident.
“The e-mail dated May 27, 2009, the day of the motor vehicle accident, indicated that Assistant United States Attorney Thompson took ‘a short ride’ in the vehicle with Special Agent Kingston, and that Special Agent Kingston lost control of the vehicle and crashed it into a street curb, a row of bushes and a small tree,” the complaint states.
“According to the email, the vehicle ‘fishtailed and slid sideways’ within only a few seconds of leaving the warehouse where the vehicle was being stored. No other documents were provided in response to MIC’s FOIA requests.”
The insurer adds: “The vehicle was owned by MIC and valued at approximately $750,000.”
Motors Insurance (MIC) says the Ferrari was stolen from a dealer in Rosemont, Pa., in September 2003. MIC paid the claim, and upon doing so, “assumed ownership of the vehicle,” the complaint states.
“(T)he Ferrari F50 was located on or about August 12, 2008, as part of an investigation by the FBI and local law enforcement authorities in Kentucky.
“Subsequent investigation determined that the vehicle was, in fact, the stolen
Ferrari F50 belonging to MIC,” the insurer says.
The FBI and the local police stored the car “during the investigation and subsequent prosecution of the individual alleged to have stolen it.”
MIC says the FBI agent and the prosecutor took the wheels out for a spin on May 27, 2009, and smashed it.
It took the FBI 3 weeks to report the accident.
“On June 17, 2009, the FBI informed MIC that its employee was involved in an accident while driving the vehicle and that MIC could submit a claim for damages,” the complaint states.
MIC submitted its claim on July 15, 2009, valuing the Ferrari at $750,000.
But the Department of Justice “denied MIC’s claim on March 10, 2010, stating that the negligence by Special Agent Kingston ‘took place while the Ferrari was being detained by the FBI’ citing 28 U.S.C. § 2680(c).”
The Department of Justice denied MIC’s appeal, too.
The complaint continues: “Given the many questions relating to the possession and use of the Ferrari F50 leading to the substantial damages from the collision, MIC retained counsel to submit FOIA requests on its behalf.”
MIC’s attorney asked for information about the “use, custody, possession, storage or transportation” of the Ferrari, and “any investigation reports, statements, photographs, inspection reports, incident reports, summaries, memoranda or other documents prepared by or received from any law enforcement agency” related to the accident.
The FBI and Justice Department refused, claiming that “the release of records concerning a third party would result in an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy and would be in violation of the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a.”
In its denial letter, the FBI added: “These records are also generally exempt from disclosure pursuant to sections (b)(6) and (b)(7)(C) of the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552.”
The insurer appealed, pointing out, among other things, that the FBI’s denial letter “fails to state how disclosure ‘of the requested information would intrude on the personal privacy of any individual.'”
The FBI and Justice Department stiff-armed the appeal, too: “Without elaborating, the denial letter stated that no search for the requested documents had occurred and that the ‘disclosure of law enforcement records concerning an individual could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.'”
The insurer appealed that one too, but the FBI did not respond within the 20-day deadline of the Freedom of Information Act.
The insurer wants some answers. It faces a March 13 deadline to submit a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
“Based on the denial of MIC’s claim, MIC anticipates that DOJ and FBI will claim immunity against civil liability under 28 U.S.C. § 2680(c) and assert that the vehicle was damaged while in the detention of law enforcement authorities. The information requested under FOIA and withheld by DOJ and FBI will be necessary to determine whether 28 U.S.C. § 2680(c) applies.”
Motors Insurance is represented by Richard Kraus with Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith in Lansing.