Illinois Motor Vehicle Employee Known as “The Plate Plan” Sentenced for Vehicle Registration Fraud Scheme

Department of Justice

St. Louis, MO – Melvin Harmon was sentenced to 33 months incarceration and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $119,359.92 for conspiracy to defraud the United States and mail fraud by assisting Missouri residents in registering their cars in Illinois.

According to evidence at trial, between January 1, 2015 and December 20, 2016, Melvin Harmon was employed at a Granite City, Illinois office registering vehicles for the State of Illinois Secretary of State.  He used his employment to assist Missouri residents in obtaining fraudulent motor vehicle registrations for others in exchange for a fee.  Some of the Missouri residents learned of his services when they saw flyers advertising Harmon as “The Plate Man.”

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Mother-daughter employees of Central Texas tax office arrested

CAMERON, Texas (KWTX) A mother and daughter who worked in the Milam County Tax Office were free on bond Tuesday after they were arrested on warrants stemming from an investigation of forged vehicle registrations.

Lydia Cervantes, 55, and her daughter Laura Renee Cervantes, 26, were arrested at the tax office Monday by agents from the Texas Department of Public Safety, Milam County Sheriff David E. Green said.

Green said both were booked into the county jail and were released after posting bond.

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Two arrested in misconduct investigation into Denton County Tax Office

Two people were arrested on bribery charges last month in connection with a misconduct investigation into the Denton County Tax Office.

Former tax office employee Tramanski Johnson, who worked at the Lewisville branch, was booked into Denton County Jail on Sept. 12 after turning himself in on the bribery charge, police said. Juana Caballero, a notary public who allegedly notarized forged documents, was booked on the bribery charge Sept. 11.

The Denton County Sheriff's Office investigated the case. The affidavit in support of the suspects' arrest outlines a complex scheme involving bribes to process fraudulent vehicle title transfers.

The tax office collects property taxes, renews vehicle registrations and contracts with several car dealerships to issue titles on new vehicles. The office has six locations within the county, including Lewisville, Cross Roads, Frisco and Flower Mound. The main Denton office is at 1505 E. McKinney St. Continue reading

Emissions test, odometer fraud found at vehicle inspection stations in Harris County, deputies say

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — At least two people have been arrested after an investigation revealed the suspects were conducting fraudulent vehicle inspections at two separate stations in Houston, the Harris County Pct. 4 Constable’s Office said.

Investigators received information that BI-LO Used Cars located at 2823 South Shaver Street was allegedly rolling back odometers on used cars and conducting fraudulent vehicle inspections using a procedure called clean scanning.

Clean scanning is when an inspector tricks the monitoring tool by entering in the vehicle identification number for an automobile that would fail an emissions test, but then connects the monitor to a vehicle that would pass. Meanwhile, odometer rollback is the illegal practice of changing or altering the mileage readings on vehicle to make it appear as though it has been driven less than it has.

Investigators report that over a 90 day period 54 percent of the vehicle inspections conducted were unlawful.

Another investigation concentrated on Hardy’s State Inspection located at 12965 W. Hardy Road was also using a “clean scanning” procedure. The shop is a state-licensed vehicle inspection station, deputies said.

The constable’s office reported over a 90 day period 76 percent of the vehicle inspections conducted were unlawful.

Deputies said arrest warrants were executed at both shops, resulting in the arrest of Adel Yacoub and Raymond Mentzel.

Yacoub and Mentzel are each facing two counts of tampering with a governmental record.

Original Article: http://cw39.com/2017/10/20/emissions-test-odometer-fraud-found-at-vehicle-inspection-stations-in-harris-county-deputies-say/

Massachusetts State police warn of vehicle odometer rollback scam

The Massachusetts State Police, in conjunction with the Missouri Highway Patrol have been investigating a series of consumer frauds, related to the purchase and subsequent sale of motor vehicles by a man and woman residing in Connecticut and the Kansas City Metropolitan area.

The couple purchases a vehicle, typically from the Craigslist internet auction site. The vehicle’s mileage reading is altered and the vehicle is placed back on Craigslist. The two suspects pose as the previous owners of the vehicle. The investigation revealed approximately 48 vehicle purchases/sales within the past year in the Kansas City Missouri area and an undetermined number of vehicles sold in the Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. It is possible not all the transactions involve an odometer rollback. Investigators are seeking to discuss these transactions with the sellers and purchasers of these vehicles. There has been no indication of impropriety on behalf of the sellers or purchasers, and investigators are still trying to determine the potential number of victims.

The suspects do not use their names during, 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 Massachusetts State Police Compliance Unit Trooper Stephen Walker, at 857-368-8626.

Original Article: https://www.newbedfordguide.com/massachusetts-state-police-warn-of-vehicle-odometer-rollback-scam/2017/06/01

Georgia Dealer and Title Clerk Sentenced in Odometer Fraud Scheme

Department of Justice

Two Georgia residents were sentenced in Atlanta, Georgia today for their roles in a conspiracy to alter odometers of used motor vehicles, the Justice Department announced.

Rojen Burnett, 35, of Conyers, Georgia, and Amber McLaughlin, 33, of Duluth, Georgia, each were sentenced to 12 months in prison and three years of supervised release by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Thomas W. Thrash, Jr.

Burnett owned and operated Lifestyle Auto Broker LLC, a Georgia corporation that bought and sold used motor vehicles; McLaughlin was a former customer service specialist at the Motor Vehicle Department of the Georgia Department of Revenue. In 2012 and 2013, Burnett bought high-mileage used motor vehicles, altered the mileage on the titles, rolled-back the odometers, obtained new titles with false low mileages, and sold the vehicles to unsuspecting dealers. The dealers, in turn, sold them to consumers. McLaughlin helped Burnett commit odometer fraud by fraudulently issuing new Georgia titles with false low mileages in exchange for cash.

“Buying a car or truck is one of the biggest financial decisions that consumers make,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Odometer fraudsters victimize consumers by making them pay substantially more for a used car that is less safe and less reliable than the consumer wanted or needed. The Justice Department will hold these fraudsters accountable for their crimes.”+

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Road Warrior: Low miles? Used car may be too good to be true

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.”

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Feds: Chesapeake car dealership rolled back at least 76 odometers, secured doctored titles

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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.

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Sales of vehicles with rolled-back odometers lead to lengthy jail sentence

A North York man has been sentenced to 450 days in prison after being found guilty of odometer tampering.

Mehran Amini received the longest sentence ever handed out in Ontario for illegal vehicle sales, according to a statement from the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC).

The statement said Amini was charged after OMVIC investigators discovered he'd purchased 30 vehicles from Western Canada, and shipped them to Ontario.

A North York man has been sentenced to 450 days in prison after being found guilty of odometer tampering and 'curbsiding.'

Amini then rolled back the odometers on the vehicles, which were mostly late-model pick-up trucks with high mileage, investigators said.

"They are vehicles that could be near end-of-life, but they were paying huge dollars -- $30 to $40,000 -- for these vehicles," OMVIC Director of Communications Terry O'Keefe told CTV Toronto's Pat Foran.

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Lutz man arrested for selling cars with altered odometers

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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.

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