5 On Your Side

Garner man warns of used car odometer scam: 'It's just frustrating'

Posted March 7, 2013

— Experts estimate 1 out of every 10 used cars has had its odometer rolled back, and detecting that fraud can be difficult. A Garner man said he and his mother learned the hard way.

Bert Radford was searching for a car for his mother when he found a 2005 Honda Odyssey minivan on Craigslist in February 2012. They went to the north Raleigh home of the seller, Francis Tendayi Marimo, who told them he bought, fixed and sold Honda vehicles, Radford said.

“We did take it for a test drive, and everything seemed good,” Radford said. “It only had 52,000 miles on it, so we thought we were really getting a good deal.”

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Marimo provided complete paperwork, including a clean vehicle history report from Carfax, and explained the minivan had such low mileage because the former owner was “older and didn’t drive that much,” Radford recalled.

Radford’s mother bought the minivan for $14,250. A month later, an inspector with the state Division of Motor Vehicles alerted them that the 52,417 miles listed on the title was wrong. The last reported mileage on the minivan was about 182,000 – about a 130,000-mile difference.

“Right now, the mileage says 70,000, but it's really over 200,000 at this point,” Radford said, adding that the minivan has had serious mechanical problems. “It's just frustrating to know that this van is probably towards the end of its life, and here we are with a five-year loan."

Mileage fraud not uncommon, but hard to track Mileage fraud not uncommon, but hard to track

Marimo, 39, was arrested in February 2012 and charged with change of mileage violations, obtaining property by false pretenses and acting as a dealer without a license.

The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles and U.S. Department of Transportation declined to comment to WRAL’s 5 On Your Side, due to the continuing investigation. However, records show agents believe Marimo traveled to different states to buy Hondas, then went to junkyards to buy low-mileage odometers from similar vehicles and swapped them out.

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When investigators searched Marimo’s home, they found odometers, keys to multiple vehicles, multiple titles and more than $17,000 in cash, according to a search warrant.

Radford says investigators told him there are at least 100 victims. WRAL’s 5 On Your Side tried to contact Marimo, who was released from the Wake County jail on a $3,000 secured bond. His phone was disconnected, and no one answered at the address listed in court documents.

Before buying a used car, the U.S. Department of Transportation recommends the following:

  • Ask to see the title and compare the mileage on it with the vehicle's odometer. Examine the title closely if the mileage notation seems obscured or is not easy to read.
  • Compare the mileage on the odometer with the mileage on the vehicle's maintenance or inspection records. Search for oil change and maintenance stickers on windows or door frames, in the glove box or under the hood.
  • Examine the tires. If the odometer on the car shows 20,000 or less, it should have the original tires.
  • Look at the wear and tear on the vehicle – especially the gas, brake and clutch pedals – to be sure it seems consistent with and appropriate for the number of miles displayed on the odometer.
  • Request a Carfax Vehicle History Report to check for odometer discrepancies in the vehicle's history. If the seller does not have a vehicle history report, use the car's VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) to order a Carfax vehicle history report online.

This story is closed for comments.

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  • jeff27577 Mar 14, 2013

    ha! a 5 year loan on an 8 year old van? a fool and his money.....

  • qualityguy1 Mar 12, 2013

    Bought car at "52,000" miles. A month later, the car is at 70,000 miles. So the mom drove approx. 18,000 miles in one month? Is she commuting to Florida?

  • albegadeep Mar 12, 2013

    As several people have already said, run your OWN Carfax report, and have a reputable mechanic of YOUR choosing check the vehicle out. Seems like the Carfax report will flag any mileage oddities, but compare the current mileage to the listed history anyway.

  • common tater Mar 8, 2013

    Glad a crook finally got caught...but $3000 bond? He's probably retired in another country by now with a cool half-mil in the bank.

  • jcthai Mar 8, 2013

    Sorry, WRAL, but it a car has less than 20,000 miles on it, it may have new tires if it is old enough.

  • southerntalent Mar 8, 2013

    Why in the world with some people who pay $75 and up for a pre purchase inspection would they cheap out and ask the person for a carfax,print it yourself online,spend the few dollars and save any grief

  • 68_dodge_polara Mar 8, 2013

    One caution about carfax, body shops are required to report repairs over a certain amount of the vehicles value however there doesn't seem to be a time requirement as sometimes the shop doen't report the repairs until the vehicle has been sold form a lot that has an unscrupulous relationship with the repair shop. Always take it to your trusted garage to have them look over the vehicle carefully.

  • GravyPig Mar 8, 2013

    "When I buy, I run a Carfax."

    Yep, run it yourself. This guy "ran it" for them, as in he already had one printed. People can easily fake printouts. It's the same thing as a mechanical check prior to sale. Anyone who accepts an already completed check is a sucker. Want to know the truth, you better have it checked yourself at a shop of your choosing.

  • NcNativeRaleigh Mar 8, 2013

    "Who knew, you can't trust a used car salesman cb1955"

    This is not about trust, there are good and bad in all professions. This is about greed, and not greed just on the sellers part, but greed on the buyers part too.. to the point that the "great deal" euphoria masked their own greed and clouded their judgement.

  • Obamacare rises Mar 8, 2013

    As soon as I walked in and I noticed this man was the seller, I would have done a 180 and walked right back out the door.