STRANGE WORLD ast February, ANTHONY DAVID VAUGHN ll one morning from the Dallas Police Department. “We’ve found your stolen car,’” the officer said cheerfully. He had traced the registration to Vaughn’s name and address in Grapevine.

Vaughn was shocked by the call, since both of his cars were safely in his garage. In fact. Vaughn told the officer, he had never owned a 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass. “Then why is your license plate on this car?” the officer asked. Vaughn had no idea. Neither of his license plates was missing.

Later. Vaughn called the auto theft division, where an officer confirmed that the car was indeed registered in Vaughn’s name. After checking further, the officer told him there had been a mistake and urged him to “just forget about it.”

But Vaughn was too upset to forget about it. After much digging and complaining, a police lieutenant told him that the Cutlass belonged to the FBI. According to police reports, the car was the department-issued vehicle of local FBI head BOBBY GILLHAM, which had been stolen out of his driveway on February 13. The abandoned vehicle had been stripped of $6,000 worth of items, including the fed head’s golf clubs.

Registering department vehicles to dummy names and addresses for security reasons is a longtime policy at the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, says MIKE SANTI-MAURO, assistant special agent in charge. Dallas region. The intent is to keep criminals from conducting their own license checks and blowing an agent’s cover. Normally, however, the FBI chooses names and addresses for dummy registration at random, then matches them up. So why did an FBI car get registered to a real person at a real address?

A former FBI agent says he thinks the embarrassing snafu resulted from a slip-up by a low-level clerk in the bureau’s bureaucracy. “Bobby Gillham doesn’t register anything,” he says. The FBI’s Santimauro calls the incident a fluke, an “unfortunate coincidence. It’s since been corrected. We’re not interested in causing anyone any problems.”

Vaughn, who says he is furious, believes that the FBI put his life in danger. What if, he wonders, criminals had traced the car to him? “I feel it was very unjust,” he says. “It worries me. Maybe I’m being set up for something. That car could be involved in anything.”


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