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.
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.
Hardly anybody I know pays much attention to the odometer reading when buying a used car — unless, of course, it’s exceptionally high. After all, low mileage is usually the main qualifier when buying a pre-owned vehicle because it suggests the two of you will likely enjoy a few more good years before it gives you serious trouble.
But judging by an arrest for odometer fraud in South Hackensack a week ago, ignoring a low-mileage reading might mark the beginning of serious trouble. “Odometer fraud? How’d they do that?” said Sal, an otherwise astute car owner I know from Barnegat.
Like me, Sal thought rolling back odometers was the kind of crime that all but disappeared when computers were introduced in most cars around the end of the 20th century. Those of us who began driving when hood ornaments were still popular remember how amateur mechanics would break into the odometer housing behind the dashboard and roll back the miles by hand.
Those days are long gone. And so is the housing, said Robert Foster, an officer in a consortium of state investigators called the National Odometer and Title Fraud Enforcement Association.
“It’s easier to do now than it was before computerization,” said Foster. “With the right kind of knowledge and software, a mechanic can get into the onboard computer and reset the mileage to anything he wants.”
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.
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.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Missouri State Highway Patrol have been investigating a series of consumer frauds related to the sale of vehicles by a KC couple.
The couple has been known to purchase a vehicle, typically from Craigslist. The couple will then alter the mileage on the vehicle and re-sell it on Craigslist, posing as the owners of the vehicle.
The investigation revealed approximately 48 vehicle purchases/sales within the past year; iis possible not all the transactions involve an odometer rollback. Investigators are still trying to determine the potential number of victims.
The suspects do not use their names during transactions, and typically use disposable pay-as-you-go cell phones.
The man is approximately 5’ 9”, medium build, and has an “East Coast” accent. If present, the woman typically stays in a green Nissan Quest minivan with their children while the transactions are conducted.
If you or someone you know has purchased a vehicle from these individuals, please contact Missouri State Highway Patrol Corporal Nate Bradley, at 816-622-0800.
LUTZ, Fla. - One Lutz man thought he was getting a deal on a used car, but he nearly got taken for a ride.
Deputies said a self-proclaimed car dealer was selling people vehicles with altered odometers.
According to the sign out front, Carmona Service Corporation will do body and mechanic work on your car. But on Wednesday, 64-year-old Pedro Carmona was arrested and charged with 11 counts, including tampering with the odometers on four vehicles.
Just last week, Mahesh Modha said he saw an ad on Craigslist for a Toyota Corolla LE with 31,000 miles for less than $10,000.
“We were ready to pay cash also, but it turned out we were scammed," Modha said.
Modha said Pedro Carbona and his nephew Gio met him to sell the car. Modha paid $1,000, got a receipt and promised to pay the rest.
"They were claiming to be a dealer actually, you know Gio said my uncle is a dealer, so I said I normally trust dealer because dealer had a license," Modha said.
The National Odometer and Title Fraud Enforcement Association (NOTFEA) is a non-profit, professional organization formed originally in 1980 as the National Odometer Enforcement Association (NOEA).
The association is chartered as a non-profit corporation with the Commonwealth of Virginia and is registered as a 501(C)(3) organization with the Internal Revenue Service.
Membership in NOTFEA is restricted to individuals working for law enforcement and consumer protection agencies, licensing and motor vehicle departments, and private attorneys and investigators who are responsible for detecting, deterring, and prosecuting odometer, rebuilt/salvage, and other title fraud offenders under state, federal, and other applicable laws.