A fight for a Ferrari is brewing in federal court in Buffalo.
And it's not over some everyday, run-of-the-mill Ferrari that costs a couple hundred thousand dollars.
The fair market value for this red 1996 Ferrari F50 – one of just 349 F50s built – is $1.94 million. HotCars.com ranked the model as the third-coolest Italian sports car from the 1990s. Car and Driver magazine clocked a speed of 194 mph – with a dash to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds – when it tested a model.
The problem: The U.S. Attorney's Office doesn't know what to do with the fast and expensive car that's been in federal government custody since December 2019.
Two people claim ownership: an Italian man from whom the car was stolen in 2003 and a Florida man who purchased it online for $1.435 million in September 2019 for his rare automobile collection.
The car ended up parked in Buffalo after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers inspected it at the Peace Bridge. It was being transported on a commercial carrier to Mohammed Alsaloussi of Miami, Fla., according to a court record.
The car with 10,708 miles on it had an Alberta, Canada, license plate that was registered to Ikonick Collection Ltd., in Edmonton.
During the inspection, the officers discovered some of the rivets on the VIN plate on the dashboard were covered in a black tar type substance, according to a court filing. When officers looked at pictures of rivets in similar cars, they did not see any glue substance. So CBP placed a hold on the car while they conducted an investigation into its history and a physical examination by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
The NICB conducted an on-site inspection and took photographs of the car and serial numbers of its components, concurring that the VIN plate was highly suspect, according to a court filing from Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul C. Parisi.
The bureau sent the photographs to Ferrari Italy and requested information and assistance with identifying the car. Information from Ferrari showed the car was stolen in Italy in 2003, barely more than a month after Paolo Provenzi, residing in Italy, had bought it with family members. Provenzi had never recovered the car, said Miami attorney Alessandra Piras, who represents him.
"When this is over, there’s going to be a movie made about this," Piras said. "This car has been going around the world, apparently. It was in Japan for a while."
A Japanese man approached Provenzi a couple years ago asking him to withdraw his police report, she said.
She called the car's travels "a complicated story" but declined further comment until she could review the court filing.
A Seattle attorney who represents Ikonick Collection and Alsaloussi said his firm will file court papers in coming days.
"We have been eagerly awaiting the filing of this action and believe our client has a very strong claim of ownership of the vehicle," said attorney Richard F. O’Neill. "We look forward to resolving this matter."
The federal government had the car authenticated and appraised in March 2020 and began forfeiture proceedings.
It sent seizure notices to all known interested parties.
Last May, CBP received a petition requesting remission of the seizure from the law firm representing Provenzi. In August, CBP notified the law firm that it had granted Provenzi's petition and that the car would be turned over to him upon the payment of storage and administrative costs of $8,476.
Provenzi provided documentation showing that he, along with his father Remigio Provenzi, and his brother, Roberto Provenzi, purchased the car in February 2003. Provenzi confirmed that he was the owner of the car when it was stolen on March 30, 2003, from a hotel parking garage in Imola, Italy. He also provided documentation from his insurance company showing his loss was not covered.
In September, CBP received a claim of ownership to the car from the law firm representing Ikonick Collection and Alsaloussi.
Alsaloussi is the sole owner of Ikonick Collection, according to the court record, which indicates he created this holding company for his rare automobile collection.
Asaloussi denied knowing the car was stolen when he bought it.
The U.S. Attorney's Office filing says it has "great doubt" as to which person is entitled to the car.
“After investigation, my office determined that it would not be appropriate for us to exercise our authority and forfeit this extremely valuable and previously stolen luxury car,” said U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. in a statement. “Instead, after an 18-year odyssey, which we know took it across continents and countries, we have decided that the time has come for a court of law to determine the rightful owner of the vehicle.”
In the court filing, Parisi asked the federal court to:
• Give notice to all persons known or thought to have an interest in the car
• Restrain Provenzi and Alsaloussi from taking any action against the government to recover the car
• Discharge the government from all liability, except for maintaining the car during the court proceeding
• Dismiss the government from the proceeding
• Award the government its costs