Two New Jersey Men Plead Guilty in Pennsylvania in Scheme Involving Odometer Tampering and Title Fraud
Two New Jersey men have pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for their roles in falsifying vehicle titles as part of a long-running odometer roll-back scheme.
According to court documents, Felix Granowski, 58, of Matawan, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. Granowski owned a used car dealership based in New Jersey. Today, Alec Morgunov, 34, of Manalapan, also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud in connection with his work at Granowski’s dealership.
As part of their plea agreements, Granowski and Morgunov admitted that between 2012 and 2016, they engaged in a scheme to sell high-mileage, used vehicles with false, low-mileage readings entered on the vehicles’ odometers and titles. According to court filings, the defendants purchased high-mileage vehicles from individuals, arranged to alter the vehicles’ odometers to reflect false, lower mileage readings, and then obtained motor vehicle titles reflecting those false, lower mileages. Granowski and Morgunov then used the fraudulent title documentation and artificially lower odometer readings to sell the vehicles, including at an auction located in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. By deceiving purchasers into believing the vehicles had fewer miles than they actually had, defendants sold the vehicles at inflated prices, resulting in consumers paying more for the vehicles than they would have paid had they known the true mileages.
“When individuals misrepresent the mileage on used cars, they deceive consumers into paying more money for those cars while also hiding vital information that can impact vehicle safety and repair costs,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We are committed to protecting consumers by prosecuting individuals who engage in this type of fraud.”
“We’re proud of our collaboration with the Department of Justice to investigate odometer fraud,” said Deputy Administrator Dr. Steven Cliff of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). “Our top priority is keeping people safe on the road. Anyone who thinks they’ve been a victim of odometer fraud, needs to contact their state enforcement office. They can also visit our website, NHTSA.gov, for helpful information on how to detect a vehicle that may have had its odometer rolled back.”
In pleading guilty, Granowski and Morgunov admitted that they were part of a scheme that caused at least 118 cars to be sold with rolled-back odometers and falsified titles, resulting in consumer losses of at least $674,606.
The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, respectively. Granowski and Morgunov each face a maximum sentence of five years in prison on the conspiracy to commit securities fraud charges. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The NHTSA Office of Odometer Fraud Investigation investigated the case.
Trial Attorneys Natalie N. Sanders and Ryan E. Norman of the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Rue of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania are prosecutors for the case.
NHTSA estimates that odometer fraud in the United States results in consumer losses of more than $1 billion annually. Individuals with information relating to odometer tampering should call NHTSA’s odometer fraud hotline at (800) 424-9393 or (202) 366-4761. More information on odometer fraud is available on the NHTSA website at https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/odometer-fraud and tips on detecting and avoiding odometer fraud are available at http://www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nvs/pdf/811284.pdf.
For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit its website at http://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-edpa.