Beau Michael Guidry of Baton Rouge, La., pleaded guilty to three counts of odometer tampering.
Guidry, owner of Affordable Imports in Denham Springs, La., purchased high-mileage motor vehicles both online, through eBay, as well as from wholesale automobile auctions in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The vehicles’ odometers were then rolled back as much as 147,000 miles. Guidry subsequently resold the vehicles at his lot in Denham Springs or through eBay to unsuspecting purchasers.
Many vehicles were more than 10 years old when Guidry sold them. Because of the age of the cars, Guidry was not required to sign a disclosure certifying as accurate the mileage on the vehicles that were more than 10 years old. However, each time he altered an odometer with intent to change the mileage on the odometer, he violated federal law.
“Just because a car dealer does not have to certify the mileage on cars he sells, that does not give him a license to roll back odometers,” said Stuart F. Delery, acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Division. “It is equally fraudulent to roll back a so-called ‘exempt’ vehicle as rolling back a non-exempt vehicle. With cars remaining in service longer, people rely on vehicles older than 10 years for basic transportation. These citizens are not fair game for crooked car dealers.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Office of Odometer Fraud Investigation (NHTSA) investigated this case. The case was prosecuted by Justice Department trial attorney David Sullivan of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.
Evidence of Possible Odometer Fraud
• Look for loose screws or scratch marks around the dashboard. This is pertinent primarily to mechanical odometers which can be manipulated with tools.
• Also on mechanical odometers, check to make sure that the digits in the odometer are lined up straight–particularly the 10,000 digit.
• If the speedometer sticks.
• Check for service stickers inside the door or under the hood that may give the actual mileage. Odometer tamperers try to find these as well, but sometimes miss one.
• Look in the owner’s manual to see if maintenance was listed, or if pages that might have shown high mileage were removed.
• Determine if a computer warranty check has been run on the car.
• Use a commercially available computer search program that checks for mileage alterations. Some car dealers will give you one of these for free if you ask for it. While this is an important step to take, it is not foolproof by any means because not all high mileages are recorded on paperwork that makes its way to these databases.
• Ask to see the title documents and look to see if the mileage reading on the documents has been altered.
• Look to see if the steering wheel was worn smooth. Look for other signs of excessive wear on the arm-rest, the floor mats, the pedals for the brakes and gas, and the area around the ignition. If these items were recently replaced, that could also indicate efforts to hide the car’s true use and mileage.
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