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Northern Connecticut Resident Sentenced to Prison For Multi-Million Dollar Odometer Tampering Scheme

28 August 1997

Northern Connecticut Resident Sentenced to Prison For Multi-Million Dollar Odometer Tampering Scheme

     SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Aug. 27 -- A northern Connecticut
resident was sentenced to a lengthy prison term yesterday in connection with
his participation in an odometer fraud conspiracy that prosecutors state
caused millions of dollars of losses to consumers.
    United States Attorney Donald K. Stern and Frank W. Hunger, Assistant
Attorney General, announced today that U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor
sentenced Daniel R. Kieffer, 57, of Enfield, Connecticut, to three years and
ten months imprisonment with a three-year period of supervised release.
    Four other individuals -- Frank Degray, Michael Morassi, Gerald Hammond,
and Samer Elias -- have previously been convicted and sentenced in connection
with their participation in the fraudulent scheme.  Co-defendant Michael Kozak
has been convicted and is scheduled to be sentenced on September 5, 1997.
    According to the evidence as outlined by prosecutors in federal court,
Kieffer and Michael Kozak were the ringleaders of the criminal enterprise.
Kieffer and Kozak made arrangements with Gerald Hammond and Samer Elias to
obtain wholesale automobile dealership licenses from the New York Department
of Motor Vehicles in the names of Rhinebeck Auto Brokers and Dutchess Auto
Traders.  Acting as Rhinebeck Auto Brokers and Dutchess Auto Traders, Kozak
and Kieffer then bought late-model high mileage cars, directed Hammond, Frank
Degray, and others to turn back the odometers, and then sold the "spun" cars
to other used car dealers.
    According to the prosecutors, this odometer-tampering operation was
responsible for the sale of more than 1,000 vehicles with rolled back
odometers.  They indicated that the ring sold more than 900 vehicles with
rolled back odometers during the time period in which Kieffer participated.
Prosecutors estimate that this activity resulted in losses to consumers of
between $2,500,001 and $5,000,000.
    U.S. Attorney Stern encouraged anyone who discovers that a vehicle was
subjected to odometer tampering to contact law enforcement.  He explained that
the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 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.
    According to Stern, more than fifty individuals have been convicted in the
Western Massachusetts area of federal charges arising from odometer fraud
activities during the past several years.  Federal officials estimate that
these individuals were responsible for causing losses to consumers estimated
in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  The National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration estimates that odometer fraud throughout the country results in
consumer losses of at least four billion dollars annually.
    Stern and Hunger praised the combined efforts of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
    The case was prosecuted jointly by Assistant U.S. Attorney C. Jeffrey
Kinder, Chief of Stern's Springfield Office and by James E. Arnold, an
attorney in the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Consumer Litigation.

            Suggested Methods to Guard Against Odometer Tampering
    -- Look for loose screws or scratch marks around the dashboard.
    -- Check to make sure that the digits in the odometer are lined up
       straight -- particularly the 10,000 digit.
    -- Test drive the car and see if the speedometer sticks.
    -- Check for service stickers inside the door or under the hood that may
       give the actual mileage.
    -- Look in the owner's manual to see if maintenance was listed, or if
       pages that might have shown high mileage were removed.
    -- Ask the dealer whether a computer warranty check has been run on the
    -- Use a commercially available computer search program such as CarFax or
    -- Ask to see the title documents and look to see if the mileage reading
       on the documents has been altered.
    -- 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.
    -- Have a mechanic check out the car.

SOURCE  U.S. Attorney's Office