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— "Most of the cars," Escobedo opines, "are stolen by the same guys who sold them or by the employees that work at that car lot. They keep a copy of the key. That is another part of the stolen-car scam. And most of the rest are stolen from the guys that work at the customs offices. They get key copies while the cars are in the process of being imported. And they know where the car is going to end up because they have the owner's address. So two months later, they go and steal them."

Escobedo tracks the stolen cars using an online database of vehicle identification numbers known as VIN Assist. "It was made," he says, "by the National Insurance Crime Bureau for law enforcement agencies."

Over 90 percent end up in the United States, where he says he can locate the car after it's been bought by an unwitting citizen. "That is how I do it. The guy at the end of the line. He buys new tires, buys a new radio, and I recover cars in better condition than the cars that were stolen. I have a percentage rate that is more than 65, and that doesn't mean that I couldn't find the other 35 percent."

But there's a difference between finding and recovering. Escobedo claims he can find a car more often than not. Getting it back to its owner in Tijuana is another case. "I call the local police where these cars are and tell them where they are," he explains, "but because I'm not government, they don't act on what I'm telling them. So I work through Interpol, but it takes them a long time to get the paperwork to the local police in the United States. It takes months and months. But otherwise, I would have to concentrate on one car at a time and go personally to each police department and tell them, 'This is the car.' But I can't do that. Some things I still have to establish. I need to establish a system whereby police in the States will go recover these cars with just my phone call or paperwork, which I can fax them. I'm not there yet. The important thing is, I'm finding the cars. And I can prove that."

Escobedo admits that his six-year-old auto-recovery business is not profitable. "It's an investment right now." He's been trying to convince insurance companies that the system works, while funding the business by selling off a string of Avenida Revolución nightclubs he owned, including Peanuts and Beer. "But I'm running out of nightclubs," he says.

Still, he thinks the venture will be successful if insurance companies start using his services. As proof, he offers, "When the chief of police has his car stolen, he comes here. The attorney general, the congressmen, they get their cars stolen, they come here."

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