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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Virginia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 25, 2018

Norfolk Man Pleads Guilty to Rolling Back Car Odometers

NORFOLK, Va. – A Norfolk man pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit odometer tampering and securities fraud.

 

According to court documents, from in or about September 2010 through October 2016, Lawson W. Basnight, 47, and others conspired to defraud vehicle purchases into believing used vehicles had lower mileages than they actually had, resulting in the purchasers paying more for vehicles than they would have if they had known the true mileage of the used car. Basnight found high-mileage used cars for sale on the Internet, and when negotiating to buy the cars Basnight posed as a used car dealer.  If he bought the car, he would instruct that the seller not fill in the assignment portion of the title. After Basnight got the car, he had another person roll back the odometer. Basnight would then prepare the title application with the false lower odometer readings. After securing new official titles, Basnight was able to get new purchasers to pay more money for the used cars.

 

Basnight pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit odometer tampering and securities fraud and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison when sentenced on May 16. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

 

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, made the announcement after U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Miller accepted the plea. Trial Attorneys Jacqueline Blaesi-Freed and John W. Burke of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth M. Yusi are prosecuting the case.

 

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Office of Odometer Fraud Investigation (NHTSA) investigated the case.

NHTSA estimates that odometer fraud in the United States results in consumer losses of more than $1 billion annually and has established a special hotline to handle odometer fraud complaints.  Individuals having information relating to odometer tampering should call (800) 424-9393 or (202) 366-4761.

 

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:17-cr-171.

Topic(s): 
Consumer Protection
Contact: 
Joshua Stueve Director of Communications joshua.stueve@usdoj.gov
Updated January 25, 2018