A Norfolk man conspired to roll back the odometers of more than 50 vehicles before selling them to used-car dealerships and others, according to court documents.
Lawson W. Basnight, 47, pleaded guilty Thursday to the fraud – which resulted in $250,000 to $550,000 in losses.
“He’s accepted responsibility and knows what he did was wrong,” Moody “Sonny” Stallings Jr., Basnight’s attorney, said after the plea hearing. He said his client expects to serve some time in jail and was ready to start his sentence Thursday, “but the judge talked him out of it.”
A sentencing hearing is set for May 16 in U.S. District Court in Norfolk. Basnight faces a maximum of five years in prison.
Prosecutors Jacqueline Blaesi-Freed and Elizabeth Yusi declined to comment.
According to court documents, the scheme stretched from September 2010 through October 2016. Basnight worked with at least one other person to defraud vehicle purchasers into believing they were buying cars and trucks with significantly lower mileages than they actually had – prompting them to pay significantly more than they were actually worth.
To conceal the scheme, Basnight would sometimes pose as a used-car dealer while buying the vehicles and give an alias, documents said. He would direct the sellers not to write their vehicle’s mileage on the title. He would then roll back the odometer and fill out the document with the false reading. After that, he or an acquaintance would apply for and secure a new title.
Court documents reference the purchase in 2013 of a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee with at least 125,000 miles. An acquaintance of Basnight’s disconnected the odometer and rolled it back to indicate the vehicle had been driven only 12,954 miles.
The Jeep was purchased for $19,000 and sold to a “major used car retailer” for about $30,000, documents said. Stallings said some of the vehicles were sold at CarMax.
The documents also reference a purchase in 2016 of a 2009 Ford F-150. It was bought one day for for $9,700 and sold the next for $21,900. In the interim, the mileage dropped from at least 165,000 miles to 54,982.
Scott Daugherty, 757-446-2343, [email protected]