I used to be a criminal investigator for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office in Tampa, Florida. Teamed up with investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Florida Highway Patrol, and the National Auto Theft Bureau, I developed an informant who told me about a stolen tractor trailer truck that was being used by a trucking firm in the Tampa area. The vehicle was described as a red, GMC Astro 95 worth about $50,000. (This is back when $50,000 was a lot of money.) According to my informant, this truck had been stolen somewhere in Florida and had immediately been repainted red. According to the informant, the owner of the trucking firm knew the truck was stolen.

This fit with information we had already developed on this trucking firm owner, who we knew to be mob connected. If fact, I had already been at this man's place of business in regard to another investigation and had seen the red, GMC Astro 95 on the premises. Of course, at that time I did not know the truck was stolen.

Acting on the informant's information, we proceeded to the trucking firm, but the red, GMC Astro 95 was not on the premises. The owner, naturally, denied any knowledge of the stolen truck. The same afternoon we recovered the tractor trailer truck on a public right of way in the vicinity of the suspect's business. The investigators from the National Auto Theft Bureau went over the red, GMC Astro 95 with a "fine toothed comb," but they were unable to locate any primary or secondary (i.e., secret) vehicle identification numbers. Without these numbers we were not going to be able to trace this vehicle to an owner or a stolen vehicle report. Needless to say, we were quite frustrated.

As my fellow investigators continued to comb the vehicle for evidence, I had to leave for a court appearance. Several hours later while returning from court, I stopped my vehicle at a busy intersection. Immediately, a northbound turquoise and white, GMC Astro 95 caught my attention. Except for the color, it was the "spitting image" of the stolen truck we were trying to identify. Prior to leaving for court, I had scraped some of the red paint off the stolen truck and discovered that the original paint was—you guessed it—turquoise and white. Upon stopping the northbound truck, I found out from the driver that he was driving for a firm out of Canada and was returning home after a trip to southern Florida. I asked the driver if his boss had lost any trucks within the last year. He said he didn't know but that the boss' son was asleep in the truck's sleeper. I awoke the owner's son and he informed me that the truck I was looking at was the twin of a truck that had been stolen from his father on one of his previous trips to Florida. Subsequently, the owner flew from Canada and identified his stolen vehicle. He was able to do this even without a vehicle identification number because he had so uniquely customized his vehicle.

But we still had a problem. We could not charge the mob connected trucking firm owner with being in possession of stolen property because we could not conclusively prove the stolen truck had been in his possession. The truck we saw previously, which looked like the stolen truck, may not have been, and we would not be able to testify in court that it was. Once again, we were terribly frustrated.

Several days later, I was discussing my frustration with a police photographer. You can imagine my excitement when he said something like this: "Allan, several months ago I was working on a case that required me to photograph from the air the general vicinity of the trucking firm in question. It just may be that we photographed your stolen vehicle while it was on the suspect's property." Sure enough, the photographer was able to produce a photo of the suspect's property with the red, GMC Astro 95 sitting on it. When the photo was enlarged, the owner of the vehicle was able to note enough points of identification so that his identification would hold up in court, even though there were no primary or secondary vehicle identification numbers ever found on this vehicle. Incidentally, the suspect was subsequently arrested and convicted of possession of stolen property.

So, What's The Point?

A red, GMC Astro 95 and... providence, right? Wrong! Maybe it was and maybe it wasn't. Personally, I think the Lord had something to do with it, but without direct inspiration, I simply cannot know for sure.

This story is actually about a red, GMC Astro 95 and... the fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:22-23, the inspired writer says: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." The writer goes on to say, "And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (verse 24). What's the point? Namely this: If someone were trying to identify your owner, would there be enough points of identification to connect you with Christ?