FIVE men accused of winding back the odometers in high-end second-hand cars which they planned to offer for sale have been ordered to appear in court in June.
Serious Crime Task Force officers arrested the men after raids on six Adelaide properties, where 23 cars — including four Mercedes, four BMWs, four Holdens, three Toyotas, a Range Rover and a Volvo — computer equipment, odometer manipulation equipment and cash were seized.
Five firearms and ammunition were also claimed by police in a joint investigation with Consumer and Business Services officers, which began in February.
A 22-year-old man, of Colonel Light Gardens, a Kingswood man, 63, a Prospect, man, 66, a Greenwith man, 66, and a Parafield Gardens man, 65, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to defraud and participating in a criminal organisation.
Police have laid 20 charges but said the inquiry was continuing. Further charges are expected.
The men were granted police bail to appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on June 27.
Police say the investigation uncovered odometer tampering offences by licensed and unlicensed used car dealers.
“(It is) a practice commonly referred to as odometer fraud, winding back or clocking,’’ Detective Chief Inspector John Gerlach said.
“This practice is carried out in order to deceive purchasers about a vehicle’s true mileage and value in order to obtain an increased profit.”
Any cars or other seized equipment deemed to be the proceeds of crime would be confiscated, Det Chief-Insp Gerlach said.
Police also advised prospective car buyers could protect themselves from this type of offending by comparing an odometer reading against available vehicle records, including service records, safety certificates, log books or previous sales contracts.
Also, they suggested obtaining a professional car inspection by the RAA or motor trade association, be cautious of vehicles that are significantly underpriced for their make, model, age and condition and access the Personal Property Securities Register, to check the vehicle’s history and any finance arrangements. The PPSR does not include odometer readings but is a service offered by private companies that can be located on the internet.
It was best to buy through licensed dealers so you are protected by law against loss if the vehicle was later found to be stolen or financially encumbered, Det Chief-Insp Gerlach said.
“It is also important that buyers note that if they do not check the odometer reading when they buy a car, they could be accused of being the “clocker” if they sell the car later on and the new buyer finds it has been altered,’’ he said.