Wyoming Used Car Dealer Sentenced to 33 Months in Prison for Odometer Tampering Scheme
WASHINGTON – Jay Lee (aka Michael Smith; John Marks; Ricky Marks; and Anthony Romero) was sentenced today in connection with an odometer tampering scheme that defrauded numerous victims in Wyoming and Colorado, among other places, the Justice Department announced. U.S. District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson of Cheyenne, Wyo., sentenced Lee to a term of 33 months in prison and a term of three years of supervised release during which he cannot be involved in the sale of motor vehicles. The court ordered Lee to pay $195,654.55 in restitution.
On July 23, 2009, a Casper, Wyo., federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Lee and a co-defendant, Randy Lee, in a 28-count indictment alleging conspiracy, odometer tampering, securities fraud, providing false odometer certifications and mail fraud. Investigators were unable to locate Jay Lee at the time, with the result that Randy Lee proceeded to trial alone. Randy Lee was convicted on Jan. 21, 2010, after a two-week trial, by a federal jury in Cheyenne of 11 felony counts, and is currently serving a 37 month prison sentence. Authorities subsequently located and arrested Jay Lee in Salt Lake City, where he was doing business using the name Michael Smith. On July 29, 2010, Jay Lee pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of mail fraud.
According to the indictment, the Lees purchased high-mileage, used motor vehicles from various businesses in New Mexico and Wyoming, as well as from a wholesale motor vehicle auction in Loveland, Colo. The Lees were charged with altering the odometers, the motor vehicle titles and sales documentation associated with these vehicle titles in order to reflect a false, lower mileage. As a result, the state of Wyoming issued motor vehicle titles reflecting false, lower mileage, which the Lees knew to be untrue. The defendants then sold the motor vehicles to local consumers, other used motor vehicle dealers, and at wholesale auto auctions. As a result, the Lees received higher sales prices for the vehicles they sold.
"Fraud schemes like odometer rollbacks cost consumers by de-valuing one of the most important purchases they make: their automobiles. Corrupt dealers who engage in this fraudulent practice steal consumers' hard-earned money, impede intelligent buying choices, and raise safety concerns by misrepresenting the true condition of the vehicles they sell," said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. "The Justice Department will seek tough and appropriate sentences for those who try to cheat consumers by engaging in this illegal practice."
Assistant Attorney General West thanked the agencies that worked collaboratively to achieve this result. The underlying investigation was conducted by the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s Office of Compliance and Investigation and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in Denver. The case was prosecuted by attorneys David Sullivan and Alan Phelps in the Office of Consumer Litigation in the Justice Department’s Civil Division.