WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Georgia businessman this week pleaded guilty to operating an odometer fraud scheme that revolved around buying later-model cars at auction, tampering with the odometer reading, and then selling the cars at inflated prices, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced.
Robinson, 37, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Norfolk Virginia, to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and odometer tampering. He owned and operated Affordable Auto Body Repair, a repair shop licensed to repair and sell salvage title vehicles.
According to the regulator, Robinson would purchase older vehicles — many of which had been involved in accidents — from an auction that specialized in vehicles from insurance companies. He would then alter or replace the odometer to reflect a false, lower mileage.
With the lower mileages in tow, Robinson would sell the cars at inflated prices. Robinson bought the vehicles for an average of $1,131 and sell them for an average of $3,818, according to The Virginian-Pilot. Robinson tampered with more than 100 vehicles.
Robinson’s scheme was first discovered on May 26, 2016, when a co-conspirator, Steven Bazemore, pleaded guilty for his role in the scheme. Bazemore was a former employee of the Norfolk Commissioner of Revenue — an office that acts as a contractor of the Department of Motor Vehicles. It handles select duties for DMV Services, including title work. Bazemore admitted that while employed as a clerk at a DMV Select facility in Norfolk, he knowingly created at least 76 Virginia motor vehicle titles with falsified mileage readings.
In exchange for the falsified titles, Bazemore would receive cash payments from Robinson. To make it difficult for the DMV to detect the fraud, Robinson asked Bazemore to return the documents used to procure the fraudulent titles instead of retaining the documents in the DMV files system.
On Sept. 22, 2016, a few months after pleading guilty for his role, Bazemore was sentenced to one year of home confinement and was ordered to pay restitution to the ultimate purchasers of the vehicles. During this time, Robinson's identity was unknown.
However, in January of this year, a federal court charged Robinson with operating an odometer fraud scheme. His sentencing is scheduled for June 8.
This case was investigated by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Office of Odometer Fraud Investigation and the Virginia DMV. NHTSA estimates that odometer fraud in the U.S. results in consumer losses of more than $1 billion per year.