FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CIV
MONDAY, OCTOBER 21, 1996 (202) 616-2765
TDD (202) 514-1888
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ANNOUNCES
ASSAULT ON ODOMETER FRAUD
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the latest success in the Justice
Department's effort to eliminate odometer fraud, a federal court in
Philadelphia today unsealed an indictment against a car dealer and
two accomplices for tampering with odometers.
Assistant Attorney General Frank Hunger of the Civil
Division said that in recent months the Department of Justice has
brought charges against more than 30 individuals in eight cities
for similar offenses. Two people were sentenced to prison and two
others pleaded guilty.
"Odometer fraud rips off hard working Americans who
are trying to save money by buying a used car," said Hunger.
"Americans who buy used cars deserve the truth. We will track
down and prosecute those who tamper with the truth."
The indictment, returned October 10, charged that F.
Charles Rossi, Jr., 50, of Annandale, New Jersey, a licensed car
dealer, conspired with L. Thomas Spontak 50, of Dunellen, New
Jersey, and Vincent Castelli, 41, of Brooklyn, New York, to defraud
used car buyers, said Hunger and Michael R. Stiles, U.S. Attorney
The indictment charged that from 1992 until at least
March 1995 Rossi, Spontak and Castelli agreed to purchase cars in
Pennsylvania and New Jersey, roll back their odometers, and sell
them at inflated prices. It alleged that Rossi altered the titles
of the vehicles to conceal high mileage, and that Rossi and Spontak
obtained new titles for the cars from New Jersey. It also charged
that the two provided false odometer statements to buyers,
misrepresented the mileage by as much as 90,000 miles, and that
Rossi and Spontak committed securities and mail fraud.
The various charges announced today share several
features. In all cases, the defendants were charged with
purchasing late model, high-mileage vehicles, rolling back their
odometers, and, by representing them as low-mileage vehicles,
selling them at inflated prices. The charges state that the
defendants obtained low-mileage title documents from state titling
agencies, sometimes paying state personnel to ignore obvious
alterations on vehicle documentation.
In addition, most of the cases allege attempts to conceal
responsibility for the odometer rollbacks, the Department said.
This was done by using false names and creating bogus sales
documents showing transactions involving non-existent dealerships
before the cars were actually resold.
Hunger said that despite efforts to evade responsibility,
investigators can establish who was involved in turning back
odometers. He said the Department has taken several steps to help
this process, including increasing resources, improving cooperation
between federal and state officials and developing computer
software and an investigatory resources manual that investigators
can use to streamline their efforts.
"Odometer fraud steals money from those least able
to afford it," said Hunger. "People who buy used cars have
a right to trust the mileage that was represented as accurate.
They cannot afford the losses they suffer when they spend thousands
for a car, only to find that the vehicle is basically worn
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
estimates that odometer tampering costs consumers at least $4
billion annually in inflated prices. The problem has intensified
as new vehicles become more expensive.
In recent weeks charges were brought against people for
odometer tampering related offenses in Pennsylvania, Maryland,
Virginia, North Carolina and Alaska. Sentences were imposed on
defendants who pled guilty in Texas and California and additional
guilty pleas were obtained in California.
It should be noted that indictments are merely
accusations, and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until
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