A Chesapeake used-car dealership rolled back odometers in at least 76 vehicles, some of them by more than 100,000 miles, federal prosecutors allege in court documents.
But state and federal officials declined this week to identify the business in question, citing an ongoing investigation involving the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and the U.S. Department of Justice. They said the only charges filed so far in connection with the alleged conspiracy involve a former employee of the city of Norfolk who they believe helped cover up the scheme.
A DMV spokeswoman confirmed the dealership is “no longer open.” She added that her department’s standard procedure is “to make efforts to notify possible victims of suspected odometer fraud.”
William Childress, the executive director of the board tasked with regulating the state’s new- and used-car dealerships, said he had not heard about the case and couldn’t comment. But he added that 76 incidents of odometer fraud linked to one dealership would be a “huge deal.”
Steven Bazemore, 33, of Virginia Beach is expected to plead guilty May 26 in U.S. District Court in Norfolk to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud.
Carteia Basnight, Bazemore’s attorney, did not return calls or emails seeking comment.
According to court documents, Bazemore helped the unidentified business obtain falsified vehicle titles while working at a DMV Select branch in Norfolk.
The scheme stretched from about January 2010 through September 2013, court documents said.
Lori Crouch, a Norfolk city spokeswoman, said Bazemore worked for the city from Sept. 28, 2007, through Sept. 20, 2013. She declined to say whether he was fired or he quit.
While working at the DMV Select branch, Bazemore was supposed to help customers register their vehicles and obtain Virginia motor vehicle titles, among other things.
Court documents said the dealership’s owner and other co-conspirators paid Bazemore for vehicle titles that reflected false, lower odometer readings. The owner, identified in court documents only as “Co-conspirator 1,” would then work with the others to sell the vehicles to unsuspecting buyers for more money than they probably would have otherwise received.
Court documents said Bazemore processed several title applications “that contained obviously false odometer certifications and frequently were missing signatures or other required information.” The documents also said the businessman sometimes gave Bazemore titles that contained new odometer information that was lower than previous odometer readings on the same title.
The documents outline two incidents the businessman worked with Bazemore to get fraudulent titles, including one in July 2012 when Bazemore made it look like a 2003 Chevrolet S10 pickup had 84,603 miles on the odometer when the prior Georgia title listed 243,000 miles. The other incident occurred in February 2013 when Bazemore made it look like a 2003 Honda Accord had 107,003 miles when the prior Virginia title listed 211,000 miles.
To conceal this, Bazemore would sometimes give his co-conspirators back the fraudulent title, title application and other documents in violation of DMV policy, court documents said.