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Attorney General's News Release

March 5, 2013

Attorney General Koster files criminal charges against Springfield used car dealer --AG says dealer misrepresented carsí mileage--

Jefferson City, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster today filed criminal charges against a Springfield used car dealer for misrepresenting the true mileage on two cars he sold. Koster charged the man, Ashley Bolton, owner of Excel Auto Group, with two counts of unlawful merchandising practices.

The Attorney General’s investigation revealed that in 2011 and 2012, Bolton misrepresented the actual mileage of vehicles being offered for sale by Excel to two different consumers. In one count, Bolton allegedly bought a car with more than 180,000 miles then sold it representing it had 99,000 miles. In the other case, Bolton bought a car with nearly 220,000 miles then sold it less than a month later with 119,000 miles.

"We believe that Ashley Bolton took advantage of consumers who trusted him," Koster said. "We intend to protect consumers by vigorously prosecuting any individual who takes money out of Missourians’ pockets by violating our consumer-protection laws."

Koster noted there are several ways consumers can protect themselves when purchasing used vehicles. Consumers should ask dealers who previously sold the vehicle for copies of the vehicle’s odometer disclosure forms. Consumers should also look for oil-change stickers in the car, which could reveal the mileage at the last oil change. In addition, consumers can do a title search, which will reveal the mileage at the vehicle’s last inspection.

Koster is using National Consumer Protection Week, March 3-8, to highlight areas where consumers can protect themselves from scammers, including when purchasing a used car.

Unlawful merchandising practices is punishable by two to four years in the Department of Corrections, or up to one year in the county jail, and/or a fine up to $5,000 or double the amount the defendant gained from the commission of the crime, not to exceed $20,000.

The Missouri Department of Revenue and the Office of Odometer Fraud in the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration assisted Koster’s office in the investigation. Koster’s office also has a civil investigation against Bolton underway.

As in all criminal cases, the charges against the defendant are allegations, and the defendant is presume innocent until or unless proven guilty in a court of law.

The following tips will help consumers when purchasing a used car:

  • Research the vehicle’s history. Ask the seller for details concerning past owners, past usage of the car, and maintenance. Consider using a service such as Carfax, which can research the car’s history using its vehicle identification number (VIN). Such research can reveal whether the car has been damaged in a flood, involved in a crash, been labeled a lemon, or had its odometer rolled back.
  • Research the car’s title history through the Missouri Department of Revenue at: http://dor.mo.gov/motorv/nmvtis/.
  • Make sure any mileage disclosures match the odometer reading on the car.
  • Check the warranty. If a manufacturer’s warranty is still in effect, contact the manufacturer to make sure you can use the coverage.
  • Ask about the dealer’s return policy. Get it in writing.
  • Examine dealer documents carefully. Make sure you are buying – not leasing – the vehicle. Leases use terms such as "balloon payment" and "base mileage" disclosures.
  • Examine the car using an inspection checklist. You can find checklists in magazines, books, and on websites that deal with used cars.
  • Test-drive the car under varied road conditions – on hills, highways, and in stop-and-go traffice.
  • Talk to the previous owner, especially if the current owner is unfamiliar with the car’s history.
  • Hire a mechanic to inspect the car.
  • Determine the value of the vehicle before you negotiate the purchase. Check the National Automobile Dealers Association’s (NADA) Guides, Edmunds, and Kelley Blue Book.
  • Research the frequency of repair and maintenance costs on the models in auto-related consumer magazines. The United States Department of Transportation’s Vehicle Safety Hotline (888-327-4236) and website gives information on recalls.

If a consumer suspects odometer fraud, call the Missouri Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-392-8222 or file a complaint on the website at ago.mo.gov.



 
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