News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington

Four Men Sentenced To Prison For Conspiracy For Rolling Back Car Odometers

Seventy-five Cars Sold with Falsified Mileage

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 2, 2012

            Four men from Puyallup, Washington were sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to prison terms for conspiracy to sell used cars after tampering with the odometers, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.   RICKY RISTICK, 23, and his father ROBERT "BOB" RISTICK, 42, conspired to roll back the odometers on 36 different automobiles.  RICKY RISTICK was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ROBERT RISTICK was sentenced to two years in prison.  MILLER STEVENS, 32, and his brother STANLEY STEVENS, 28, conspired to roll back the odometers on 39 different vehicles.  MILLER STEVENS and STANLEY STEVENS were each sentenced to two years in prison.  At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton said there was a significant safety problem created by the defendants’ crime.

            The four men operated entities buying and selling cars under the names One Stop Auto and RSV Auto.   In pleading guilty, the RISTICKs admitted responsibility for for $144,000 in fraud losses.  The STEVENs admitted responsibility for $156,000 in fraud losses.  According to records in the case, the men would purchase high mileage vehicles from both private sellers and used car dealers in Washington and Oregon.  The men would then have the odometers rolled back, so the new purchaser would think it was a low mileage vehicle.  The plea agreements describe examples of the scheme.  The RISTICKs admitted that in 2006, they bought a 2000 Chevrolet Silverado with 192,000 miles from a private seller in Oregon for $7,800.  In early 2007, they requested that an auto repair shop roll the odometer back to 64,521.  They then sold the Silverado to a car dealer in Wenatchee for $15,000.

            In July 2006, MILLER STEVENS purchased a 2000 Toyota Tundra from a private party in Montesano for $12,400.  The truck had a reading of approximately 126,000 on the odometer.  STANLEY STEVENS took the vehicle to a Puyallup repair shop and requested that the odometer be reset to approximately 39,500.  The truck was resold in July 2006 to a private party in Tacoma for $15,000.  When the buyer discovered the fraud in August 2006, he demanded his money back.  The STEVENS then resold the vehicle to another unsuspecting buyer.

            In asking for a significant sentence, prosecutors noted that the deceptive sales directly affected public safety.  “For example, one of the defendants’ victims told investigators that he bought a pickup with 68,900 miles on the odometer for his son to drive to school. The truck actually had more than 190,000 miles. According to the victim, the vehicle’s wheel fell off while his son was driving out of a parking lot and toward a highway. Had the incident occurred minutes later at high speed, the result could have been much more serious. The owner of a truck with 68,900 miles can reasonably expect that his wheels will not spontaneously detach.... Victims of odometer schemes do not simply lose money; they are led to drive vehicles that may be far less safe and reliable than they realize,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.

Odometer tampering remains an important consumer problem.  To avoid becoming a victim of odometer fraud, the following tips can help:

  1. Have a mechanic you trust check out the car and look for signs of wear and tear that are inconsistent with the mileage on the odometer.
  2. Look for loose screws or scratch marks around the dashboard. This may signal that a mechanical odometer which has been manipulated with tools.
  3. Also on mechanical odometers, check to make sure that the digits in the odometer are lined up straight — particularly the 10,000 digit.
  4. Test drive the car and see if the speedometer sticks.
  5. Check for service stickers inside the door or under the hood that may give the actual mileage.
  6. Look in the owner’s manual to see if maintenance was listed or if pages that might have shown high mileage were removed.
  7. Ask the dealer whether a computer warranty check has been run on the car.
  8. Use a commercially-available computer search program that checks for mileage alterations. Some car dealers will give you one of these for free if you ask for it.
  9. Ask to see the title documents and look to see if the mileage reading on the documents has been altered. If the title is brand new, see if there is a reasonable explanation for the new title.  Odometer tampering rings often obtain new titles to hide mileage alterations or the true history of ownership of the car.
  10. Look to see if the steering wheel was worn smooth. Look for other signs of excessive wear on the arm-rest, the floor mats, the pedals for the brakes and gas, and the area around the ignition. If these items were recently replaced, that could also indicate efforts to hide the car’s true use and mileage.
  11. Don’t assume that mileage is accurate just because the vehicle has an electronic odometer.  Electronic odometers can be manipulated with electronic tools.

            The case was investigated by the Seattle Police Department, the Department of Transportation – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).

            The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jerrod Patterson and Trial Attorney Alan Phelps with the U.S. Department of Justice Consumer Protection Branch.

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