ST. LOUIS • Eight St. Louis-area men and women have been sentenced for their involvement in a ring that altered vehicle documents to obtain loans, prosecutors said Thursday.
The ring altered documents to remove lienholders before selling the vehicles or to obtain new loans, prosecutors said. They also reduced the value of the vehicles on documents or changed the state of residence of owners to dodge taxes and license fees, they said.
Federal, state and local investigators were able to document $311,000 in losses due to the scheme, but estimate that the true loss amount approached $1 million.
The eight defendants received prison terms ranging from probation to more than 11 years in prison.
The final defendant in the case, Justin Carter, 22, of St. Louis, was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison. The leader, Randall Hinton, 33, of St. Louis was sentenced Aug. 11 to 11 years, four months in prison, prosecutors said.
Two men are accused of running a car racket in which they sold second-hand vehicles with false odometer readings.
Police allege the men bought 20 vehicles with high kilometre readings on sales websites this year.
They then allegedly bought car parts, including odometers with lower readings, from wreckers and swapped them into the vehicles before selling them to unsuspecting buyers.
The men also allegedly changed log book records to match the modifications and removed service stickers from vehicles.
By wiping off thousands of kilometres, the vehicles appeared newer and worth more, police claim.
TAVARES — A two-county investigation has shut down an Astatula chop shop whose operators are accused of dealing in stolen cars from three states, authorities said.
David Bernando Cruz, 30, and his wife, Joselyn Cruz, 31, were charged with operating a chop shop. David Cruz has been released from the Lake County Jail after posting a $50,000 bond. Joselyn Cruz was jailed in Osceola County on the same bail.
Lake County detectives began investigating the two after receiving information from the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office regarding the couple having a large amount of vehicles to sell and looking for a place to get rid of them.
The couple allegedly stole vehicles throughout Florida, as well as in Alabama and Georgia, with a tow truck they owned. They reportedly rolled back the mileage and covered up any damage to the vehicles.
It also was alleged that David Cruz would get vehicles from owners who couldn’t make their car payments under an agreement that he would assume the payments. He then allegedly hid those vehicles from repossession companies until he could obtain fraudulent titles on the vehicles and resell them.
Lake County sheriff’s detectives eventually learned of a warehouse at 14200 Corkwood Lane in Astatula,where the couple had allegedly been hiding vehicles.
A man who was once a top salesman at a San Fernando Valley car dealership was sentenced Monday to a year in federal prison for conspiring to roll back vehicle odometers in a scheme in which people paid up to $400 to avoid penalties for exceeding mileage limits on leases or to increase auto trade-in values.
Jeffrey Levy, a former salesman at Galpin Ford in North Hills, was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release upon getting out of prison and to pay restitution of about $115,800 to the owners of 21 cars with altered odometers.
U.S. District Judge George H. King ordered that $35,000 of the amount be paid immediately.
The judge also prohibited the 62-year-old Woodland Hills resident from employment related to the purchase, sale, leasing, or financing of new or used motor vehicles during the period of supervised release and ordered him to undergo treatment for mental health issues and a gambling addiction.
A total of 28 suspects were arrested throughout Southern California on Feb. 26 during a multi-agency investigation into a large-scale vehicle theft operation, according to California Highway Patrol.
The investigation was spearheaded by the CHP Border Division's Orange County Auto Theft Task Force (O.C.A.T.T.), along with the Ontario Police Department and more than 15 other state and local agencies from four counties.
Suspects who were wanted for vehicle theft, identity theft, credit card and insurance fraud were arrested in various cities.
The operation “Hogg Life” developed after an extensive investigation in which O.C.A.T.T. investigators identified 47 suspects, 125 stolen vehicles and several local businesses from information stemming from a traffic enforcement stop by the Ontario P.D.
The investigation involved the fraudulent removal of lien holders (legal owners) from the vehicles' titles, commonly known as “Title Washing.” These vehicles were then utilized to commit various additional crimes throughout Southern California. The coordination of resources from numerous multi-jurisdictional task forces and agencies resulted in 103 vehicles being recovered or accounted for.
In addition, as a result of the operation, three weapons were seized and 18 additional vehicles were identified as either possibly stolen, vin-switched or fraudulently purchased.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A Springfield car dealer was sentenced Wednesday for rolling back the mileage on cars he sold.
Ashley Bolton, who owned Excel Auto Group, must serve 30 days in shock-incarceration at the Greene County Jail, along with five years of supervised probation. This shock-incarceration comes as part of a suspended sentence of four years in the Missouri Department of Corrections.
ATLANTA (CBS46) - Metro Atlanta police are keeping an eye out for a rising trend among car thieves called cloning.
David Renaud, with the National Insurance Crime Bureau, said the problem started surfacing about five years ago.
"They're stealing a car, and then they will clone the VIN. In other words... remanufacture the dash VIN, the labels on the car and everything," Renaud said.
The VIN, or vehicle identification number, is basically a fingerprint for your car. Renaud said that thieves can copy your VIN, and if they had a stolen car that was a similar make and model to yours, they could then use your VIN to clone the stolen car.
TRENTON — A Middlesex County car dealer who used fraudulent vehicle titles to sell cars damaged during Hurricane Sandy was sentenced today to three years in state prison, state authorities said.
Jonathan Olin, 42, of Manalapan, for former operator of D&D Auto Sales in Old Bridge, admitted in August that he obtained fraudulent "clean" titles for eight vehicles, seven of which were sold to unsuspecting customers by Pinky N Brain Corp., doing business as D&D.
One of his associates, Jessie Dinome, 30, of Jackson, a former employee at the Freehold Motor Vehicle Agency, accessed state computers to create the false titles, the state Attorney General's Office said. Dinome was sentenced to probation in October.
The seven vehicles were sold for a total of about $86,000, authorities said. Olin pleaded guilty to theft by deception and was ordered to pay full restitution to the victims. A third person, Jacob Douek, 40, of Staten Island, N.Y., still faces charges in the scheme.
The case was referred to the Attorney General's Office by the state Motor Vehicle Commission after receiving information from the National Salvage Vehicle Reporting Program and ABC News, which investigated how flooded vehicles ended up on car lots.
According to Federal prosecutors, from as early as 2004 and through at least 2010, Kyle Novitsky, 45, and Judith Aloe, 52, both of North Miami Beach, FL, purchased high-mileage, used motor vehicles in Florida, California and elsewhere from a national vehicle leasing company. Thereafter, Novitsky and Aloe allegedly altered the motor vehicle titles and sales documentation associated with these vehicles to reflect lower mileage, and, relying upon such fraudulent certifications, the Commonwealth ofPennsylvania issued motor vehicle titles reflecting the false mileage.
On January 17, 2013, a federal grand jury in Philadelphia unsealed an indictment charging Novitsky abd Aloe with making false odometer statements, securities fraud and conspiracy to commit these offenses. Novitsky and Aloe are charged with selling 247 motor vehicles — some with mileage fraudulently understated by over 100,000 miles — at wholesale automobile auctions in Manheim, PA, and elsewhere, and providing Pennsylvania titles that the defendants knew were issued based upon fraudulent lower mileage.
Note: Charges in an Indictment are only allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The Department of Justice, Office of Consumer Protection Litigation offers an online resource about Odometer Tampering and also offers this helpful consumer checklist: