A Norfolk, Virginia man was sentenced today for operating an odometer and title fraud scheme that involved more than 50 vehicles and spanned six years, the Department of Justice announced.
Lawson Basnight, 48, was sentenced to serve 18 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. U.S. District Judge Mark S. Davis also ordered Basnight to pay $403,720.17 in restitution, reflecting the consumer loss caused by Basnight’s scheme.
Basnight pleaded guilty on January 25 in the Eastern District of Virginia to one count of conspiracy to commit odometer tamping and securities fraud. As part of his plea agreement, Basnight admitted that he purchased high-mileage vehicles from individuals advertising them for sale online and arranged to alter those vehicles’ odometers to reflect false, lower mileage readings. Basnight then secured fraudulent motor vehicle titles reflecting the lower mileage readings and used the false odometer readings and titles to sell the vehicles with inflated prices to unsuspecting purchasers.
“The Department of Justice is committed to prosecuting those who prey on unsuspecting consumers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Tampering with automobile odometers causes victims to pay more for used cars, raises safety and maintenance concerns, and builds distrust in the used car market.”
Basnight’s odometer and title fraud scheme began in 2010 and continued until 2016. The scheme affected more than 50 vehicles and resulted in consumer loss of approximately $400,000. At times, the false mileage readings on the altered odometers and fraudulent titles were 110,000 miles less than the vehicles’ actual mileage.
This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Jacqueline Blaesi-Freed and John W. Burke of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch with assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Yusi of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. 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 with information relating to odometer tampering should call (800) 424-9393 or (202) 366-4761.
More information on odometer fraud is available on the NHTSA website https://one.nhtsa.gov/Vehicle-Safety/Odometer-Fraud and tips on detecting and avoiding odometer fraud are available at this page: www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nvs/pdf/811284.pdf.
For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit its website at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.
For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, visit www.justice.gov/usao-edva.
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Author: July 25, 2018