Odometer fraud investigation involves Tampa dealership

TAMPA - That shiny, one-owner, low-mileage ride that took all of your hard-earned savings could turn into a mechanical menace. 

Odometer fraud is a felony in Florida, but I-Team investigator Jackie Callaway found local car owners who say they didn't get what they paid for.

An ad touted the 1999 Tahoe as having one owner with just 93,000 miles on it.  Or so thought Peaches Whitehead.

Kim Barnett can relate.  In July, she helped her son pick out his very first car.  104,000 was the actual odometer reading, and the dealer's paperwork stated the same.

On the way home from the dealership, Barnett spotted an oil change sticker in the window that read '174,000' miles from January of 2011.

Using the VIN number, Barnett pulled up the vehicle's information on the DMV website and couldn't believe what she had found.  In 2009, the vehicle had 137,000 miles on it, according to the DMV.

During a chance meeting with one of the Tahoe's three former owners, Whitehead discovered the SUV didn't have 93,000 miles on it, rather closer to 200,000.

The I-Team verified via state records that Ron, who doesn't want his last name used, bought the Tahoe in 2004 with 89,000 miles on it.  We found his Craigslist ad from 2011.  It lists the vehicle with 180K miles.  Nine months later, Whitehead bought the same SUV from Auto Image Plus on North Nebraska.

Auto Image Plus President Pete Douglas agreed to answer our questions about the cars he sold to both Whitehead and Barnett, but not on camera.  Off camera, Douglas admitted he replaced the instrument panel in the Barnetts' car, but never notified the buyer.

We found documents that detail a DMV investigation that ended with Auto Image Plus taking back the Barnett sedan in exchange for a full refund in August.  Now the FHP's Bureau of Criminal Investigations is reviewing Whitehead's complaint.

Auto Image Plus claims the odometer read 93K when it bought the SUV from an individual in 2011.  Titles to both vehicles read 'exempt' in the space for the odometer reading. 

In Florida, sellers don't have to list the mileage if a vehicle is more than 10 years old.  Both of these owners say they were unaware of the exemption.

Before purchasing any car, have a mechanic check it out for abnormal wear and tear that might indicate high mileage.  Also, plug the VIN number into the DMV online tool to determine the mileage at the time of the last title transaction.  

Find the Florida's Department of Motor Vehicles vehicle information check at Flhsmv.gov/mvcheckweb/ .

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