CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Odometer-fraud ring busted. ‘It’s a horrible way to start your adult life’

Aug 14, 2023, 7:00 PM | Updated: Aug 15, 2023, 3:18 pm

NICOSIA, CYPRUS - JUNE 12: The odometer, with 32 km, is seen on an imported car from Japan on June 12, 2014 in Nicosia, Cyprus, after it was left in the buffer zone in 1974. The buffer zone is patrolled by The United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), and originally set up by the Security Council in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. After the hostilities of 1974 and in the absence of a political settlement to the Cyprus problem, UNFICYP has remained on the island to supervise ceasefire lines, and maintain a buffer zone, (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images)

(UNFICYP)

SALT LAKE CITY — Three men, all under 22, have been arrested for allegedly taking part in an odometer-fraud ring in Utah.

The Unified Police Department has identified 10 victims of the fraud ring but believes there are many more.

“We’re thinking anywhere from 300 to 600 victims right now … based on the amount of cash that they [suspects] have received and the purchases they’ve made,” said Detective JD Nelson.

Utah trio victimized hundreds in elaborate odometer fraud scheme, police say

Austin Kahle Weilacher, 21; Porter Rockwell Jacob Hamblin, 19; and Austin Timbrell Benson, 20, were each booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on Wednesday for investigation of 10 counts of theft by deception, 10 counts of forgery and 10 counts of odometer fraud with intent to defraud.

$4 billion crime

Dave and Debbie speak with Detective JD Nelson of the Unified Police Department about the crime.

Each year approximately 3 million used cars have their odometers rolled back an average of 30,000 miles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, odometer fraud throughout the country results in consumer losses of approximately $4 billion annually.

The Utah Division of Motor Vehicles recommends: 

  • Checking the inspection certificate. It will have the date of inspection, mileage at the time of inspection, place of inspection and the inspector’s name recorded on it.
  • Looking for lube or maintenance labels on the left doorframe, in the glove compartment, under the hood, in the trunk, etc. These often contain mileage information.

“Listen to this number. I just pulled this up on the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Approximately 452,000 used cars have false odometer readings. That’s a 1-in-29 chance that the used car that you just purchased has had the odometer tampered with,” Dave said.

How the scam works

Detective Nelson said the fraud operation started in 2021. The trio would buy older cars with between 150,00 and 250,000 miles for no more than $3,000 and sell them for up to $10,000.

He said they would tell the victim-buyer the odometer stopped working.

“They sell it to somebody and they tell them, ‘Hey, you know, the pixels on the screen just went out last week or the odometer just stopped working,” Nelson said. ” . . . because it’s such a good price on the car that they’re buying, they fall for it. And then when they go get that odometer fixed, they find that that vehicle has 50 to 100,000 more miles than what they thought.”

The suspects would present a CARFAX to victims but alter it to match the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) with the car they were selling or they would take a photo of a legitimate CARFAX and hope the victim did not check the VIN of the car the suspects were selling.

Buying fancy cars

“What was your reaction to the age of these these kids?” Dave asked.

“I was pretty surprised for how sophisticated they were with a scam and how old they were. I was not expecting that,” Nelson said. “Typically when I see something this big with this many victims, I’m finding criminals who have been in the lifestyle for quite a while — usually been to prison or jail multiple times. And these are three young, obviously intelligent, men who didn’t really have a criminal history.”

Were the suspects “buying fancy stuff with that cash or were they saving that money?” Debbie asked.

“We found cash that they had saved, but they’ve also been purchasing high-end sports cars,” Nelson said. “They went down to Texas a few months ago and purchased a 2018, I believe, McLaren for the $140,000 in cash. Prior to that, they had bought a 2016 Corvette Z06 up in Idaho for $60,000 in cash.”

The detective said the suspects would race around the Salt Lake Valley in the performance sports cars.

“They fled from the police a couple of times in those cars,” Nelson said. 

For the trio of suspects, “it’s a horrible way to start your adult life becoming federal felons,” he said, adding there is a federal indictment pending in this case.

If you suspect you may be a victim of odometer fraud, call Unified Police at 801-840-4000.

CARFAX has compiled the following tips to help used-car buyers detect odometer fraud:

  • Ask to see the title and compare the mileage listed on the title with the vehicle’s odometer.
  • Compare the mileage on the odometer with the mileage indicated on the vehicle’s maintenance or inspection records.
  • If the vehicle has a traditional mechanical odometer, check that the numbers on the odometer gauge are aligned correctly.
  • Examine the tires. If the odometer reads 20,000 or less miles, the vehicle should have the original tires.
  • Look at the wear and tear on the vehicle — especially the gas, brake and clutch pedals — to see if the wear seems consistent with and appropriate for the number of miles displayed on the odometer.

CLICK HERE for more information from CARFAX

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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Odometer-fraud ring busted. ‘It’s a horrible way to start your adult life’