Agency advises caution, research when buying used vehicles
PHOENIX – A Gilbert man who manages a used car dealership has been arrested for selling a vehicle with a false odometer reading in addition to other violations by detectives with the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General.
Mikel Martinez, 37, manager of Auto Link of Arizona, had recently sold a 2013 Chevrolet E2500 Cargo Van stating that it had 159,000 miles on it. Unbeknownst to the buyer, the vehicle had actually racked up over 303,000 miles.
The buyer originally came to OIG because Martinez had not provided the title or registration for the van. Martinez had also informed her that she was being financed through BHFC Financial Services; however, when the buyer contacted the company, it had no record of her.
ADOT’s Office of Inspector General took up the case and opened an investigation that led detectives to discover that the vehicle mileage on the title had been altered from when it was first titled to Auto Link of Arizona.
When Martinez was called in to OIG headquarters regarding the odometer tampering, detectives discovered that in addition to altering the mileage, Martinez removed the letter “C” designation on the vehicle’s title. A letter “C” indicates the true mileage of the vehicle is unknown. It was also discovered that he had a fictitious dealer plate on his vehicle that was made of laminated paper.
Martinez was arrested and booked at the Fourth Avenue Jail on Sept. 21 and is currently facing counts of fraudulent schemes, forgery, tampering with a public record, displaying a fictitious plate and odometer fraud.
While ADOT’s Office of Inspector General stands ready to assist those who’ve fallen victim to fraud, ADOT has car-buying tips that can be found on the agency’s website at azdot.gov/CarBuyingTips.
Beware of odometer fraud.
- Check the odometer reading on the vehicle instrument cluster and compare it to what is listed on the back of the title from the seller and any odometer information contained in any vehicle history reports or repair invoices. Also check the title to see if the actual mileage is listed (Box A).
- A typical vehicle is driven about 15,000 miles per year. If the odometer mileage of a vehicle shows much less than that average annual usage, it could be an indicator that the odometer has been rolled back, and worth further inspection.
- Have a trusted mechanic check the odometer for signs of tampering and for wear on the vehicle to see if it’s in line with the displayed mileage. A mechanic can also check the vehicle computer for mileage.
Use good judgment and ask lots of questions.
There are no stupid questions when it comes to protecting yourself in a big purchase. Do this:
- Ask for identification to make sure the seller is the owner listed on the title.
- Ask to see vehicle maintenance records.
- Check the VIN on the inside of the driver’s door frame and on the top of the dashboard to make sure they match.
- Check for VIN tampering such as the door frame sticker peeled off and replaced, and altered rivets on the dashboard plaque.
The most important thing to do is to take time and not rush the process. If the seller is acting suspiciously, unwilling to show ID or records or trying to rush the process, walk away. Take the time to find the right purchase.
Seek help if you’ve been scammed. ADOT is here to help victims of fraud involving vehicle titles, registrations and driver licenses. Call our 24-hour fraud hotline at 877.712.2370 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.