Rollback Ripoff: Family falls victim to odometer fraud

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Shane Horner just found a used car for his family but the path to this vehicle has not been an easy one.

“It’s not right to be misled and basically robbed for nothing,” Horner said.
Horner initially went to Scott’s Auto Sales in Mishawaka.

A 1996 Chevrolet Lumina minivan caught his eye.

“The sticker on the van said low mileage and cold AC,” Horner said.

So, Horner traded in his Jeep along with $400 for a minivan he thought would be perfect for his family of seven. Just a few days after the purchase, the new owners hit the first bump in the road.

“We went to make our first payment and nobody answered the phone,” said Tomi Vaughn, Horner’s fiancée. “Nobody was at the car lot.”

Turns out the dealership was at the center of a St. Joseph County Police investigation. The dealership owner, Adame Scott, was charged with two counts of altering an odometer.

Horner eventually got a call from Scott himself.

“He’s like ‘Some things have happened and I have to be honest with you… the mileage on that van is not correct,’” Horner said.

Court documents show the minivan Horner purchased with an odometer reading 125,956 miles actually had more than 225,000 miles on it.

Investigators had been keeping an eye on the minivan and even tracked down its original owner to confirm the odometer rollback.

An employee at the dealership told police he was instructed to roll back the mileage on more than 20 cars in just a few months, according to court documents.

This wasn’t the end of the problems for Horner and Vaughn.

“Twice he printed us somebody else’s plates,” Vaughn said. “We drove around with plates that weren’t even legal.”

The Indiana Secretary of State has even gotten involved by fining Scott’s Auto Sales $25,000 last week. The dealer’s license has been revoked.

The investigation also revealed that Adame Scott “continuously issued fraudulent interim plates” so customers could not get a license plate at the BMV “in order to cover up his dishonest practices.”

All of these factors left Horner with a minivan he couldn’t even drive.

“We gave him numerous opportunities to make it right,” Horner said.

Horner was forced to borrow the cars of relatives and friends in order to get to work and get his kids to school.

Dozens of videos on YouTube demonstrate how easily digital odometers can be rolled back. Products labeled as “odometer correction tools” are sold online through various websites.

“They do fall in the wrong hands,” said Lt. Matt Blank from St. Joseph County Police. “If someone is trying hard to get one, chances are they will be successful.”

Carfax data shows there are about 30,000 cars in Indiana and Michigan with odometers rolled back.

While Horner and his fiancée were eventually able to save up enough cash for another car – they still plan to file a civil suit against Scott.
“He needs to own up to what he did,” Vaughn said.

Scott pleaded guilty to two counts of odometer fraud last month. His sentencing is scheduled for March 4.

HOW TO AVOID BECOMING A VICTIM

Police encourage car shoppers to research a vehicle before handing over money.

Websites like carfax.com offer up a vehicle's history like previous owners, crashes and odometer readings.

Carfax also provides a free odometer check for a vehicle as long as you have the VIN number. Just visit Carfax odometer check

Disconnecting, resetting or altering an odometer is considered a Class D Felony in Indiana. The crime comes with a six month to three year sentence.

Experts also recommend that you have a certified, independent mechanic check out any used car you're considering.

The model year makes a difference, too. Vehicles that are 14 to 15 years old are the most targeted.


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