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Police mistakenly impound Ontario man’s car. Now he’s out $4K

A Hamilton, Ont., motorist is out-of-pocket more than $4,000 and lost the use of his vehicle for 50 days after police towed and impounded the compact SUV, claiming it was likely stolen.

It wasn’t.

“I was very confused,” said Gerben Vanden Heuvel, 36, in an interview with Global News.

And so began his one-man effort to get it back.

“It was me against the system,” said Vanden Heuvel, explaining a frustrating, expensive and inconvenient experience trying to get anyone in that system to believe him.

Vanden Heuvel began driving a new, leased Toyota RAV-4 in 2018. When the lease ran out, he bought the vehicle in 2021 through the Toyota dealership in Hamilton.

He possessed the registration documents issued by the Ontario government, a pink insurance slip, and of course, a bill of sale.

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But on Feb. 23, on his way to work, Vanden Heuvel was pulled over by Hamilton police near Upper Centennial Parkway and Rymal Road. He says an officer, using a mobile licence plate scanner in the patrol car, informed him the Toyota wasn’t his.

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It was registered to someone else; he says he was told.

“As he (the police officer) explained, as I didn’t own the vehicle, I wasn’t allowed to be in the vehicle anymore,” Vanden Heuvel recalled, after which a tow truck was summoned and his vehicle was impounded.

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The cost of towing and 50 days of storage at the impound lot amounts to more than $4,000, Vanden Heuvel said.

Over several weeks, the 36-year-old paid visits to many local Service Ontario offices in an effort to identify and clear up the mistake so he could get his vehicle back.

He called his local MPP for help, contacted the ministry of transportation, purchased a CARFAX vehicle history report, paid Service Ontario to release records, and sought to track down the supposed the owner of his vehicle, Mike’s Auto Parts, a company that no longer exists.

Eventually, after swearing an affidavit through a paralegal and incurring additional expenses, the ministry of transportation allowed Vanden Heuvel to get his car back.

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“They waved their magic wand and said the vehicle is mine again,” said Vanden Heuvel.

A spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation told Global News the original mix-up was the fault of the auto dealership when the vehicle was registered.

They could not offer an explanation for why correcting the mistake would take 50 days.

Vanden Heuvel says he was earlier told by Service Ontario that the vehicle was re-registered to Mike’s Auto Parts one day after he bought out the lease from Redhill Toyota.

He says if that happened, it was without his consent or knowledge.

Vanden Heuvel says he was fortunate that a family member loaned him a vehicle during the period when his was wrongly in the impound lot.

Even so, the experience has cost him more than $4,000. He says he had to take about five days off work to research his predicament, gather documents and work to get his vehicle back.

He says he called Global News to try to ensure that others don’t find themselves in a similar situation as his.

What would he like to see happen now?

“Financial reimbursement would be great, but even to find out why it happened, how it happened.”

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&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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