Two Atlanta, Georgia, residents were arrested this week by a team of federal and Georgia state agents, the Department of Justice announced.
Rojen Burnett, 33, and Amber McLaughlin, 32, were charged in a 25-count indictment with securities fraud, making false odometer statements and conspiracy to commit these offenses. Burnett owned and operated Lifestyle Auto Broker LLC, a Georgia corporation that bought and sold used motor vehicles. McLaughlin was a customer service specialist at the Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) of the Georgia Department of Revenue, the indictment alleges.
According to the indictment, as early as February 2012 and through at least May 2013, the defendants devised a scheme to defraud buyers of used motor vehicles by rolling back the vehicles’ odometers and causing consumers to pay more for the vehicles than they would have paid if they had known the vehicles’ actual miles.
As part of the scheme, the indictment charges that Burnett purchased high-mileage, used motor vehicles from auctions in Maryland and Virginia. Burnett then caused the odometers in these vehicles to be altered to reflect false, lower mileage, according to the charges. The indictment also alleges that Burnett caused the existing titles associated with these vehicles to be altered to reflect the false, lower mileages. McLaughlin provided him with newly issued, clean Georgia titles reflecting the false, lower mileages, according to the charges.
Using these new Georgia titles, Burnett subsequently sold the motor vehicles to other dealers through an auto auction, the indictment alleges.
“Individuals who buy and sell used vehicles cannot alter odometers and the associated paperwork to increase their value,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin J. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Consumers who purchase used vehicles need accurate mileage information to assess the value and safety of a potential vehicle purchase. We take seriously our obligation to prosecute those who violate these statutes and prey upon unsuspecting consumers.”
If convicted, each defendant faces up to 10 years in prison on the most serious of the charges.
This case was investigated by the Auto Crimes Title Fraud Unit of the Georgia Department of Revenue and the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Kerala Thie Cowart and David Sullivan of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.
More information on odometer fraud is available on the NHTSA’s website, and tips on detecting and avoiding odometer fraud are available at this page. For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit its website at http://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.
These charges are only allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.