GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Marc Libants was attached to his old Honda Civic. He even refers to the 1997 four-door as a ‘she.’ He said it wasn’t easy giving her up, but he had no need for the old car anymore, so he sold it.
Two days later, he spotted the Civic up for sale online. He knew it was his because it was missing the Honda insignia due to a previous incident. It also listed the phone number of the person to whom he had sold the car.
“I got a little suspicious and as I read the ad, it said that the car had 127,000 miles on it and that kind of made some alarm bells go off,” said Libants.
He said that wouldn’t be possible “unless he drove it in reverse for a long, long ways.”
Target 8 has warned consumers about people rolling back odometers so they can jack up the price of old cars.
When Libants saw the ad, he said, the car was being sold for $3,000. He had just sold it for only $800.
Target 8 called the number on the ad and an undercover investigator met Antonio Lopez at the car in Grand Rapids.
Lopez confirmed he was selling the car for $3000 because it had “no rust, good tires, brakes, clutch,” and he referenced the mileage.
The undercover buyer told Lopez she was recording with her cellphone, but Lopez didn’t realize he was talking to a Target 8 investigator.
When asked about the mileage, Lopez said, “Only 126,000 miles. Close to 127,000. And the engine always kept clean.”
That’s nowhere near the mileage CarFax showed when Target 8 ran the Civic’s vehicle identification number (VIN).
And the car’s previous owner, Marc Libants, had a receipt from an old repair at Fox Honda showing the car had 254,000 miles on it back in 2008. Libants also said the car had 332,000 miles on it when he sold it to Lopez.
That means the 1997 Honda Civic has driven 205,000 more miles than what was advertised online.
Less than an hour after our undercover buyer met Lopez, he sent a text message saying the car had been sold. He then stopped taking our calls.
But Target 8 discovered the car still sitting where the undercover buyer met him, so our investigators waited. When Lopez showed up, he took off in the Honda. Target 8 followed him, but he rushed inside a house as our crew walked up.
Another man at the house who had been talking with Lopez before Lopez rushed inside, told Target 8 that Lopez had just sold the car to him and started explaining the mileage before Target 8 asked about it.
“The airbag is broken, so he replaced the steering wheel and the odometer,” the man said.
Target 8 brought the case to Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.
“Any time we can help, we try. Many times, these become civil suits,” said Johnson.
Title and registration information on Lopez obtained through Johnson’s office shows nearly a dozen cars linked to Yariel Antonio Lopez and Wilfredo Lopez Mendez. It showed a couple of different addresses, including the address where Target 8 followed Lopez and spoke to the man who said he’d bought the Honda.
The Target 8 inquiry prompted a state investigation. The Secretary of State Office says it is investigating a possible unlicensed dealer in the case.
There are things you can do before you buy to make sure you’re not taken advantage of.
Run the VIN through a service like CarFax. But keep in mind that CarFax won’t always show a vehicle’s current mileage, so you should also ask to see service records showing the mileage. Also consider whether the wear and tear on the car is consistent with the mileage on the car.
According to CarFax, 20,000 cars on the road in Michigan have a rolled back odometer.
Both CarFax and the Secretary of State’s office have a list of tips when buying a used car from an individual rather than a licensed dealer.