Mississippi men admit they rolled back odometers on nearly 400 used cars
Published 3:36 pm Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Two Long Beach, Mississippi, men pleaded guilty today for their roles in a long-running odometer tampering scheme, the Department of Justice announced.
Oscar M. Baine, 41, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to alter odometers and one count of odometer tampering. Jeffrey Lyn Savarese II, 35, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to alter odometers. Both defendants appeared in federal court in Gulfport before U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. The court set sentencing hearings for both defendants for Oct. 17.
As part of his plea agreement, Baine admitted that he purchased high-mileage vehicles from wholesale automobile auctions, dealerships, and individuals, and arranged to alter the vehicles’ odometers to reflect false, lower-mileage readings. Baine admitted that he paid Savarese and others to change or alter odometers at his used car lot in Gulfport. Baine then sold the rolled-back vehicles to unsuspecting consumers for inflated prices. Savarese admitted that he began altering odometers for Mississippi and Louisiana used-car dealers in 2011 and reset the odometers on at least 200 used vehicles for Baine.
“The Department of Justice is committed to prosecuting auto dealers who defraud consumers by selling vehicles with unlawfully altered odometers,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “Consumers rely on mileage information to assess the value and safety of a vehicle, and that information must be accurate.”
“These criminals put the public at risk by rolling back odometers and defrauding hundreds of people out of one of their biggest investments. I commend the investigators and prosecutors for bringing these criminals to justice and for protecting the public from further fraudulent acts by these two. We will remain vigilant as to these types of crimes and continue working to make our roads and communities safer for everyone,” said Mike Hurst, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi.
In pleading guilty, Baine admitted that he and a co-conspirator caused at least 387 vehicles to be rolled back between 2011 and 2014, with resulting consumer losses of more than $600,000. Baine also admitted that, at times, the altered odometers and fraudulent titles included false mileages that were more than 100,000 miles less than the vehicles’ actual mileages.
Senior Litigation Counsel Linda I. Marks of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Jones of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi are the prosecutors for the case. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Office of Odometer Fraud Investigation (NHTSA), assisted by the State of Mississippi Office of the Attorney General, investigated the case.
NHTSA estimates that odometer fraud in the United States results in consumer losses of more than $1 billion annually. Individuals with information relating to odometer tampering should call NHTSA’s odometer fraud hotline at (800) 424-9393 or (202) 366-4761. More information on odometer fraud is available on the NHTSA website at https://www.nhtsa.gov/odometer-fraud and tips on detecting and avoiding odometer fraud are available at www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nvs/pdf/811284.pdf.