‘Rolling back’ suspect accused of tampering with hundreds of vehicles

A Grand Prairie man is accused of rolling back odometers to hundreds of vehicles in Texas. Star-Telegram - Courtesy

Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) – Press Release

Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV)

In April 2014, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) received several complaints from a county tax office regarding the use of fraudulent identification documents to transfer titles. The TxDMV opened an investigation and determined Damaris Sarai Martinez submitted over 40 title transactions listing fraudulent Texas driver licenses, fraudulent addresses, and fraudulent trade allowances. The TxDMV partnered with the Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigation Division to further investigate Martinez. A search warrant was obtained for a location where she operated and fraudulent documents were obtained. Martinez was charged for violation of Texas Transportation Code, Section 501.155, False Name, False Information, and Forgery, which is a third degree felony. On February 24, 2017, she entered into a plea agreement for ten years confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and payment of a $2,000 fine. The sentence was suspended, and she was placed on probation for five years. Martinez was subsequently taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation.

Piqua man sentenced in odometer scam

Scott Carnes Jr.

A Piqua man convicted with three others in a scheme in which vehicle odometers were turned back before they were sold was sentenced Monday, Aug. 22, to 18 months in prison.

Scott Carnes Jr. ,32, was convicted in Miami County Common Pleas Court of felony charges of tampering with records, tampering with odometers and transferring a motor vehicle with a tampered or nonfunctioning odometer.

Prosecutors said the four men allegedly altered odometers and tampered with titles of used vehicles sold at two Piqua auto dealerships between May 2011 and November 2013. Prosecutors said they worked at Mills Auto Sales on South Street and A Auto Sales on Clark Avenue, both in Piqua.

Carnes’ lawyer, Robert Huffman Jr., said he had no prior felony convictions and had cooperated with investigators. Carnes asked the judge for probation saying he took responsibility for his actions.

Judge Christopher Gee said the men’s actions had a significant impact on people who couldn’t afford to pay much for a car. The men, he said, “were stealing their money for a basically worthless car.”

Two other defendants already before the judge received sentences of 18 months and nine months in prison. The last defendant is scheduled for sentencing next week

Former tax office clerks allegedly violated code by giving illegal discounts

Two former employees of the Brazos County Tax Office turned themselves in earlier this week after authorities say they illegally gave people discounts on vehicle transfer taxes.

According to the Brazos County Sheriff's Office, April Arredondo, 36, of Bryan, admitted to processing about 50 fraudulent vehicle title transfers in ways that gave the person receiving the vehicle a tax discount. She told investigators she was compensated $20 to $50 per transaction.

Sonya Tijerina Munoz, 26, of Bryan, told investigators she submitted a similar fraudulent affidavit to Arredondo for her to process, authorities said.

Each woman bonded out of jail shortly after they were booked. They're accused of violating the Texas Transportation Code by providing false information. If convicted, each woman faces two to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for the third-degree felonies.

According to a probable cause statement from the sheriff's office, who investigated the case with the help of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, county tax employees observed Arredondo processing title transfer applications while no customers were present, and that signatures may have been forged. Arredondo was terminated from the tax office in February when the employees reported what they saw, the report says. Munoz resigned her position in late spring.

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Victims of alleged auto title fraud and rollbacks reimbursed by district attorney’s office

Many victims of JD’s Auto Sales were reimbursed Thursday morning. Customers were victims of alleged odometer rollback and title fraud. The car lot was shutdown and the owners were arrested Nov. 13, 2014. (Staff Photo: Kayla Langmaid)

Many victims of JD’s Auto Sales were reimbursed Thursday morning. Customers were victims of alleged odometer rollback and title fraud. The car lot was shutdown and the owners were arrested Nov. 13, 2014. (Staff Photo: Kayla Langmaid)

JONESBORO — Nearly two years after a Forest Park dealership was raided and the owners were arrested for multiple violations, the Clayton County District Attorney’s office is working to reimburse at least 90 victims who were affected by an alleged scam at the hands of the owners.

Customers who fell victims to a purported scheme by JD’s Auto Sales on Jonesboro Road were given the opportunity to get some of their money back Thursday, thanks to the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office.

District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson presented 68 victims with a check for $1,250 Thursday morning at the Harold R. Banke Justice Center. The remaining victims will be mailed a check.

Owner of JD’s Auto Sales, John Emumwen Egbe and his son, Sylvester Emumwen Egbe, were arrested during a raid Nov. 13, 2014. The two men face charges of certificate of title violations and false swearing due to a large number of odometer rollbacks and title fraud.

The 130-car lot was raided by officers with Georgia Department of Revenue, Clayton County District Attorney’s Office, Forest Park Police Department and Clayton County Sheriff’s Office.

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Feds: Chesapeake car dealership rolled back at least 76 odometers, secured doctored titles

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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.

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Hidden camera investigation uncovers used car odometer rollback

HOUSTON - Texas is the second state in the nation for odometer fraud, according to data compiled by Carfax.

It occurs when an odometer’s mileage is rolled back, or lowered, to make the vehicle appear to have fewer miles.

“When you lower the mileage on a vehicle, you are artificially inflating the value of it and costing consumers thousands of dollars,” said Chris Basso, a spokesperson for Carfax.

The vehicle history report website estimates that over 150,000 vehicles in Texas are suspected to have an odometer rollback.

Chris Zimmerman and his wife are driving around in one of those vehicles.

When Zimmerman and his wife had a third child, it was time for a minivan, so they went to Craigslist to shop for a reliable vehicle with low miles.

n June, Zimmerman came across an ad from a man who claimed to be selling his wife’s van and only identified himself as Mike. He was selling a Honda Odyssey and advertising the vehicle had less than 80,000 miles.

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Arrest in Odometer Tampering Case in Rutherford County

RUTHERFORDTON, N.C. -- A Rutherford County man is facing charges for possible odometer tampering after a month-long investigation.

Agents with the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles' License and Theft Bureau, along with the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office, the Forest City Police and Spindale Police, arrested Mitchel Craig Padgett, 20, at his home in Forest City on Monday.
Padgett was charged with six felony counts of Unlawful Change of Mileage, seven felony counts of Altering a Certificate of Title, eight felony counts of Common Law Forgery and seven felony counts of Aiding and Abetting Notary Fraud. He was taken to the Rutherford County Jail and held under $140,000 secured bond.

License and Theft Inspector Aaron Ellenburg led the investigation. In addition, a search warrant was executed at Padgett's residence and at AACE Automotive, a vehicle repair garage he owned and operated at 667 US 221-A in Forest City, by License and Theft Lt. James Walston and inspectors Aaron Carver and Charity Brown.

License and Theft agents are continuing to investigate the possibility of additional victims.

Three arrested in Sarasota for Craigslist car scam

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Three people are behind bars in Sarasota after being accused of manipulating car odometers to make the vehicles appear more valuable. 

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's Office announced the arrest of Denis Kutsayev, Tamara Kutsayeva and Renat Kutsayev. They're accused of advertising used cars on Craigslist and changing their odometers and other features to up their value before selling them to unsuspecting consumers.

An investigation by FHP revealed that they removed "the word rebuilt from the title of salvaged vehicles, altering the mileage on the title or rolling back the odometer. On one occasion, one of the defendants allegedly changed the odometer mileage of a vehicle from 117,000 miles to 46,335 miles before selling it on Craigslist."

Someone changing an odometer can be a hard problem to catch. The state recommends looking at service records that show the vehicle's mileage; check the physical condition of the carpet, break pedals and seats; look for scratches on the odometer; and, have a reputable mechanic to check out the vehicle. 

Mike Modha almost fell victim to a different odometer changing scam back in November. He wanted to buy his nephew a used car and turned to Craigslist. 

"We thought we really got a good deal," he said.  

But, that was one ride he wish he never took. 

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