When California Department of Motor Vehicles investigators learned a vehicle being registered with the DMV appeared to have a tampered odometer, they went to work to identify who did it. What they uncovered led to the arrest of Alberto Navarro Zapata, 27, and the discovery of at least six vehicles with altered odometers.
"This is a huge problem in California, more so than in any other state," said Kenny Ehrman, president of the Association of Motor Vehicles Investigators of California. "The people who buy these vehicles often get stuck with huge repair bills because the vehicles have tens of thousands of miles more on them than the odometer shows. People who rollback odometers and sell the vehicles often prey on families who struggle to make ends meet and often don't speak a lot of English."
Zapata was arrested in Stockton February 27, 2014 after a seven month investigation that revealed he was purchasing Honda and Acura vehicles, lowering the vehicle's odometer, altering the title, then reselling the vehicles on Craigslist across the Central Valley.
DMV Investigators found Zapata sold six vehicles with altered odometers adjusted by an average of 100,000 miles lower than the actual mileage. Craigslist records revealed Zapata posted approximately 98 vehicles on the site in a 19 month period. Investigators suspect there are other vehicles that Zapata has sold and rolled back the odometers.
"This means the suspect was charging victims a whole lot more than the vehicle was actually worth," said Alan Barcelona, president of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA). "Sadly there are likely additional victims. I'm grateful our CSLEA members who are DMV investigators are able to track down these liars and thieves and lock them up before they victimize yet another hardworking individual."
Zapata resisted arrest and was apprehended with the assistance of a Stockton Police K9 unit. He is being held at the San Joaquin County jail on a warrant with a bail amount of $55,000.
How to Detect Odometer Fraud:
- Check with the manufacturer to see what work was done under the warranty and what the mileage was at the time the work was done.
- Ask to see the title and compare the mileage listed on the title with the vehicle's odometer.
- Examine the title closely to see if the mileage notation seems obscured or altered.
- Compare the mileage with maintenance or inspection records.
- Check if the seller's identification matches the registration and titling documents.
If you think you have purchased a vehicle from Zapata, the DMV is encouraging you to contact the Stockton DMV Investigations Office at (209) 473-6964.