Manitoba·CBC Investigates

Couple out over $14K after buying stolen car insured by Manitoba Public Insurance

When Manitoba Public Insurance insures a car, buyers would likely assume that means it’s not stolen. But that wasn’t the case for one Winnipeg couple who bought a 2015 Ford Explorer through a private sale. They now have no car and are out $14,500.

13-vehicle heist from dealership believed to be an inside job

Thirteen cars were stolen from Auto List on Regent Avenue. A Winnipeg couple is out thousands after buying one of the vehicles through a private sale, according to court documents. (Rudy Gauer/CBC)

When Manitoba Public Insurance insures a car, a buyer would likely assume that means it's not stolen.

But that wasn't the case for one Winnipeg couple who bought a 2015 Ford Explorer through a private sale. They now have no car and are out $14,500, according to court documents filed in an unusual case that involves the theft of several vehicles from a Winnipeg dealership.

When the couple bought the SUV last August, there was no indication it was stolen, the court filings say. It came with the proper documents and the MPI broker insured it without any problem.

Later, though, police seized the vehicle, saying it had been stolen from a Winnipeg used car dealership — along with several others last summer, in what's alleged to be an inside job.

It would be a "highly unusual rare occurrence" for a stolen car to be insured, said Manitoba Public Insurance spokesperson Brian Smiley. He says the Crown insurer's system blocks stolen vehicles from being registered — but only if the theft has been reported to police.

The Ford Explorer's rightful owner, Auto List of Canada, didn't make a police report until two days after the couple purchased it, according to the court documents.

13 vehicles stolen

The heist was discovered in August, the documents say, after Auto List got a call from Winnipeg police, who said they believed one of the dealer's cars had been stolen. That triggered an inventory count which revealed 13 Auto List vehicles were missing.

Two men in their 40s have since been charged — including a former Auto List sales manager. 

The two are accused of eight counts of possessing stolen vehicles, forging bills of sale and transfer of ownership documents, and defrauding the Winnipeg couple who bought the Explorer and another person.

Police recovered 12 of the 13 stolen vehicles and returned them to Auto List, but four had already been registered to other people — including the Winnipeg couple and two of the accused. That meant the dealer needed a court order to regain legal ownership.

A third person — a 24-year-old man — had also been caught up in the case after police say they found him with a stolen 2016 Ford Edge. The man said in court that a friend working at a car dealership believed he would have trouble registering the SUV. The 24-year-old said his friend asked him to do it for a small commission.

The man said he had no idea he was breaking the law because the vehicle came with all the proper paperwork. He didn't fight to keep the vehicle, and the court dropped the charges against him.

Couple didn't fight to keep SUV

Last week, a judge ordered the 2015 Explorer purchased by the Winnipeg couple be returned to Auto List, after the couple did not show up to court to fight to keep it.

Because the vehicle was stolen, they didn't get their money back — but MPI said they can try to sue the person who sold the SUV to them.

The man who sold the couple the Explorer did not show up to the hearing either. MPI's lawyer told the court they were unable to find him.

The seller's preliminary trial for fraud and possessing stolen vehicles starts in July.

The former manager is scheduled to be in court in early June.

Auto List did not want to comment on this story.