Not that we would know anything about this sort of thing, but there's been a spate of media reports recently about the use of so-called "cloned vehicles" for criminal purposes. Now, here at Telstar Logistics, we prefer to call this sort of thing "urban camouflage," but the basic idea is more or less the same: If you take a plain white truck and add logos to make it look like a commercial fleet vehicle, the profile of the vehicle is effectively reduced in mundane street environments.
That's the basic concept behind Telstar Logistics, of course, but now it seems drug runners and human smugglers are using similar techniques -- and the logos of some of America's best-known companies -- to hide criminal activity in plain sight on our streets and highways.
Take the truck shown above. It's not a Mountain Dew van at all; it's a *fake* Mountain Dew van that was loaded with several hundred pounds of marijuana when police in Pearl, Mississippi searched the vehicle in October 2006.
Or consider this fake DirecTV service van, which was unmasked in Georgia while hauling more than $1 million in cash stuffed inside hollowed out spools of coax cable:
But for pure, brazen chutzpah, there's no beating this fake US Border Patrol van, which was intercepted as it was being used to smuggle 31 illegal aliens into Arizona. Silly smuggler! The "H" designation at the beginning of the vehicle ID number is only used on Border Patrol Jeep Wranglers. Passenger vans all begin with a "P."
Savvy criminals are using some of the country's most credible logos, including FedEx, Wal-Mart, DirecTV and the U.S. Border Patrol, to create fake trucks to smuggle drugs, money and illegal aliens across the border, according to a report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Termed "cloned" vehicles, the report also warns that terrorists could use the same fake trucks to gain access to secure areas with hidden weapons.
The report says criminals have been able to easily obtain the necessary vinyl logo markings and signs for $6,000 or less. Authorities say "cosmetically cloned commercial vehicles are not illegal."
In August 2006, the Texas Department of Public Safety, on a routine traffic stop, found 3,058 pounds of marijuana and 204 kilograms of cocaine in a "cloned" Wal-Mart semi-trailer, driven by a man wearing a Wal-Mart uniform.
In another case, a truck painted with DirecTV and other markings was pulled over in a routine traffic stop in Mississippi and discovered to be carrying 786 pounds of cocaine.
Police said they became suspicious because the truck carried the markings or DirecTV and several of its rivals. An 800 number on the truck's rear to report bad driving referred callers to an adult sex chat line.
Clearly, vigilance is required. Please stay on the look out for fake fake Telstar Logistics vehicles. And remember: The ID numbers on our tactical entertainment units always begin with the letter "E."
Fake FedEx Trucks; When the Drugs Absolutely Have to Get There (ABC News, January 18, 2008)
WFFA (Dallas, Texas) News Video on Cloned Vehicles:
What Is Telstar Logistics?