Consumer Blog: Car Dealer Issues

Can a Car Dealer Roll Back Miles on an Odometer and Simply Sell the Vehicle as “Not Original Miles?”

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

We have a case pending against a car dealer related to alleged odometer fraud.  The evidence we have obtained through discovery in the lawsuit indicates that the dealer knew the actual vehicle mileage when it sold the vehicle with an odometer showing far fewer miles.  The dealer apparently bought the car when it had over 200,000 miles and then sold it to our client with an odometer reading of less than 90,000 miles.  The dealer’s defense has been that he disclosed generally that the miles on the odometer were not the original miles.  Under Texas law, this disclosure is not enough.  I was reminded of this defense when I read about the following indictment:

“A federal grand jury in Casper, Wyo., Thursday returned an indictment charging Randy Lee (a/k/a Jimmy Lee) and Jay Lee (a/k/a John Marks, a/k/a Anthony Romero) of Cheyenne, Wyo., with odometer tampering, title fraud, securities fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy to commit these offenses. The indictment alleges that the defendants worked as used car dealers at Lee’s RV’s, Inc., a dealership in Cheyenne. According to the indictment, as early as 2002, and through at least 2006, the defendants devised a scheme to defraud buyers of used motor vehicles by misrepresenting the mileage of vehicles they sold.

As part of the scheme, the indictment charges that the Lees purchased high-mileage, used motor vehicles from various businesses in New Mexico and Wyoming, as well as from a wholesale motor vehicle auction in Loveland, Colo. The defendants are charged with altering the odometers in these vehicles to reflect false, lower mileage. The Lees then fraudulently altered the motor vehicle titles and sales documentation associated with the these vehicles to reflect the false, lower mileage. As a result, the state of Wyoming issued motor vehicle titles reflecting this false, lower mileage, which the Lees knew to be untrue.

The defendants subsequently sold the motor vehicles to local consumers, other used motor vehicle dealers and at wholesale auto auctions, sometimes without stating that the false, lower mileages were inaccurate. As a result, the Lees received higher sales prices for the vehicles they sold, the indictment alleges.

According to the indictment, some of the vehicles were sold with false, low mileage written on the title, but with a notice that the odometer reading was not accurate. The indictment adds that the defendants did not reveal the true mileage of the vehicle, which could be more than 100,000 miles more than what the title indicated.”

Obviously, I know nothing about the truth or falsity of the indictment.  Moreover, these gentleman are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.  However, a Texas car dealer cannot, with a wink and a nod, simply tell a consumer that mileage for a car or truck is not accurate without disclosing the dealer’s knowledge about the actual mileage.

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