LA HABRA – When Christopher Jarczewski recovered his stolen car, he had to convince police that he was the rightful owner, despite having the title in hand. That’s because the thief had managed to legally change ownership of the vehicle through the Department of Motor Vehicles – two weeks before the car was stolen. The 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner was stolen April 2 from Jarczewski’s auto parts store in La Habra, which he co-owns with his brother-in-law, Dick Prescott. When Prescott and Jarczewski found the car a week later, it was at a giant automotive swap meet in Van Nuys. Since Jarczewski did not report his car stolen until April, the vehicle passed the check, Botello said. He said in order for someone to acquire an ownership title in a new name, the person must present a bill of sale, a Vehicle Identification Number and a signature on the “release of ownership” section of the application. Most cars have the VIN number printed in the left corner of the dashboard, where it can be read through the windshield without ever opening the car. “The problem seems to be that if you own a car free and clear, somebody can get the VIN off your car and your car could be gone,” Prescott said. “It would be very difficult to get back unless you found it yourself like we did.” Prescott said the name that appeared on the new pink slip when the car was recovered was that of an ex-employee who knew Jarczewski. If a thief knows the name of the current owner of a car, he or she could easily acquire the VIN number, forge the signature of the current owner and create a false bill of sale on a home computer – all before stealing the target vehicle, DMV officials acknowledged. “It’s possible the release of ownership was forged,” Botello said of Jarczewski’s case. And the tactic could be duplicated by other thieves, he said. “In reality, it’s kind of easy to do it like this guy did it,” Botello admitted, adding that stopping such crimes would be tough, at least for the DMV. “It would be almost impossible to prevent something like this, but then again, for someone to steal the documents and go to DMV to steal the car before they steal the car … it’s kind of unusual and personally I’ve never heard of something like this. “It’s a crime and it should be prosecuted. It’s really more of a law-enforcement issue,” he added. The section of the form releasing ownership by the registered owner requires only the owner’s signature, the date and a daytime telephone number. Botello said the “release of ownership” section does not require a notarized signature. “We don’t check on all of the signatures that come through here. We’d need handwriting experts to check them all and with all the millions of drivers in the state, it’s impossible,” said Botello. “We don’t do random checks, either. We only check if a vehicle comes up as reported stolen.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3029160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl eventThe new ownership title that was recovered with the vehicle had an issue date of March 24. For Prescott, there could be only two possibilities for how this could have happened. “Either there’s a flaw in the DMV, or someone inside is selling out,” he said. Armando Botello, spokesman for the DMV, said the car in question was indeed issued a new title on March 24. But he said the title was issued after officials checked to make sure that the vehicle had not been reported stolen, a routine procedure.