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Financial Fraud Law

Odometer Tampering Sends Used Car Dealer To Federal Prison

 We know it’s wrong and in fact we know it’s illegal. But we didn’t know that odometer tampering can lead to federal prison. Well, that’s what Jay Lee (aka Michael Smith; John Marks; Ricky Marks; and Anthony Romero) has just learned, after being sentenced in connection with an odometer tampering scheme that defrauded numerous victims in Wyoming and Colorado. U.S. District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson of Cheyenne, Wyo., put Lee in prison for 33 months, adding a term of three years of supervised release during which he cannot be involved in the sale of motor vehicles. The court ordered Lee to pay $195,654.55 in restitution. 

Here’s the background, courtesy of the government: On July 23, 2009, a Casper, Wyo., federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Lee and a co-defendant, Randy Lee, in a 28 count indictment alleging conspiracy, odometer tampering, securities fraud, providing false odometer certifications and mail fraud. Investigators were unable to locate Jay Lee at the time, with the result that Randy Lee proceeded to trial alone. Randy Lee was convicted on Jan. 21, 2010, after a two week trial, by a federal jury in Cheyenne of 11 felony counts, and is currently serving a 37 month prison sentence. Authorities subsequently located and arrested Jay Lee in Salt Lake City, where he was doing business using the name Michael Smith. On July 29, 2010, Jay Lee pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of mail fraud. (Aah, that mail fraud count will bring in the feds anytime!)
According to the indictment, 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 Lees were charged with altering the odometers, the motor vehicle titles and sales documentation associated with these vehicle titles in order to reflect a false, lower mileage. As a result, the state of Wyoming issued motor vehicle titles reflecting false, lower mileage, which the Lees knew to be untrue. The defendants then sold the motor vehicles to local consumers, other used motor vehicle dealers, and at wholesale auto auctions. As a result, the Lees received higher sales prices for the vehicles they sold.
"Fraud schemes like odometer rollbacks cost consumers by de-valuing one of the most important purchases they make: their automobiles. Corrupt dealers who engage in this fraudulent practice steal consumers' hard-earned money, impede intelligent buying choices, and raise safety concerns by misrepresenting the true condition of the vehicles they sell," said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice.