LITTLETON, Colo. -- The U.S. Justice Department calls it “clocking”: intentionally rolling back an odometer to make a vehicle appear less used.
Odometer rollback is “the single most common fraudulent issue in Colorado and nationwide." That's a bold statement made by one of this state's top auto enforcement regulators.
So, based on a tip from one of our viewers, the FOX31 Problem Solvers decided to take a closer look at a business which advertises “odometer correction.”
Odo-Pro is a licensed business registered to the address of a corner house in Littleton.
State records show its owner is Peter Petrov Rains.
He sells parts and auto repair services, mostly through via mail.
Odometer repair and adjustment is permitted in some instances under the federal law. However, “if the mileage on the odometer cannot remain the same as before the service, the odometer must be reset to zero.”
What is not permitted is rolling miles on a vehicle backwards with the intent to defraud.
Here’s part of the federal law which says so:
327.03 A person may not
(2) disconnect, reset, alter, or have disconnected, reset, or altered, an odometer of a motor vehicle intending to change the mileage registered by the odometer;
(3) with intent to defraud..
The FOX31 Problem Solvers tested to see if Odo-Pro would reduce the miles, no questions asked, on one of our old news cars: a 2005 Dodge Durango.
We had a mechanic remove the odometer, which had 195,839 well-documented miles on it.
The FOX31 investigative team then printed off a single-sheet form we found on Odo-Pro's website. It’s said “Odometer Correction Form” at the top.
We requested our odometer be programmed backwards -- rolled back to 150, 839 -- a 45,000-mile reduction.
The form required us to acknowledge that “altering the odometer for personal gain is illegal.”
And that "owners have a legal obligation to notify prospective purchasers if the vehicle's mileage has been altered.”
We mailed our instrument cluster, an $89 cashier’s check from a local convenience store and that form to Odo-Pro in Littleton.
Four days later, our digital odometer came back in a box with "Peter Petrov’s" business card. The mileage was altered per our request: backward 45,000 miles from the original 195,839.
When the Problem Solvers team went to Odo-Pro to ask about its business practices, a man we'd seen working at Odo-Pro answered the door. He said he didn’t speak English. However, FOX31 was able to reach Peter Petrov Rains by phone from the front porch of the business address.
FOX31 asked Rains: “We had some complaints about your Odo-Pro business. That you're essentially just rolling back odometers.”
Rains responded by telling our reporter, “What we do mainly, uh, we work only with parts. We don’t work on any kind of vehicles. We re-program clusters that have been replaced. So, we do pretty much what dealerships do. Just at a much lower cost."
When FOX31 asked if he’d like to do an interview to explain how Odo-Pro’s “correction” program works, Rains declined.
While we were standing in front of Odo-Pro, it was hard not to notice the piles of boxes and packets heading to other states via the U.S. Postal Service: Florida, Virginia, Michigan and Pennsylvania, among others.
FOX31 called customers listed on packages, who confirmed some of the boxes indeed contained instrument clusters. None admitted to requesting rollbacks.
Chairman of the Automotive Service Association of Colorado, Brad Pellman, had never heard of Odo-Pro or Peter Rains before FOX31 called.
Pellman was curious how Rains was able to conduct a seemingly vibrant parts-and-services business correcting odometers.
“Until you brought it to my attention, I wasn't even aware that this was being done by anybody but dealers or some kind of licensed secured facility that had the rights to do it,” Pellman told FOX31 during a recorded interview.
Pellman said that once in a great while, an auto-repair facility might re-set an odometer backwards for a vintage car or some other unique reason, but he says it's not very common at all.
“Rolling back an odometer is certainly something we don’t even think about doing in our industry,” said Pellman. “The incentive seems to be that it would put less mileage on the odometers for a purpose I would consider fraudulent.”
FOX31 spoke with state and federal authorities who regulate and investigate reported cases of fraudulent odometer rollback services. Although declining on-camera interviews, agents said based on what happened with our TV vehicle’s odometer alone, they have serious questions about Odo-Pro’s business practices.
* FOX31 made certain the Durango -- and that odometer -- we used for this investigation would not be re-sold except for parts.