Thousands of Wisconsin cars possibly tampered with

Posted at 6:22 AM, Apr 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-30 11:02:27-04

MILWAUKEE -- Thousands of Wisconsin cars have a lot more miles on them than the dashboard says.

A CarFax survey said that's due to odometer fraud- and the numbers show it's happening a lot in Southeast Wisconsin.

If your car's tampered with it could mean extra money spent on repairs and a big hassle- not to mention the safety risk of not knowing if you could be driving a dud.

Kristina Mutic bought her 2011 Volkswagen Golf from someone she considered to be a friend.

"I felt more comfortable since this is a used vehicle somebody that I know," she told the I-Team's Casey Geraldo. "They are very expensive friends," she said.

Mutic discovered there's an extra hundred thousand miles on the car than what she thought she was getting. She paid $5,700 believing the car had just under 60,000 miles on it.

"I was just extremely hurt and extremely angry," Mutic recalled of the revelation.

Now, with closer to 160,000 miles, she's had to pay hundreds of dollars on repairs.

Mutic is one of at least three people to report Tomasz Lesniewski, her former friend, to Wisconsin's Department of Transportation since the start of 2018 for odometer fraud. WisDOT tells the I-Team it is looking into charges for odometer

Lewsniewski hasn't had a dealer license in the state since 2016, when he voluntarily closed his business.

Thousands of others in Wisconsin might face the same issue in their cars from other people selling cars.

Carfax estimates Wisconsin has about 25,000 cars with incorrect odometers, up from 23,000 cars they estimated last year. The report says the Milwaukee area is home to about 11,500 of those.

"It's crooked to do that to someone," said Dave Manyo. He's seen cars with a hundred thousand miles off from what the Carfax report indicates the car should have. He's not surprised by the Carfax report of so many cars with potentially tampered odometers, but he is concerned.

"That's the biggest thing- all the safety issues that arise with that kind of mileage on a vehicle," he told the I-Team.

So what can you do if you're buying a used car?

  • Manyo recommends paying for the Carfax report
  • He also suggests getting the VIN number from the seller and checking that.

Tips from Wisconsin DMV:

  • Pay close attention to batteries, hoses, clamps, fan belts and air conditioning belts. If those parts have recently been replaced and the vehicle has low mileage, it could be a red flag.
  • Vehicles formerly owned by leasing companies are often targets. Those vehicles are usually late model vehicles with high mileage. Rolling back the odometer on a late model vehicle makes it highly desirable on the used car market.

If you think your vehicle may have had its odometer changed, you can learn more about how that works in Wisconsin and report it by clicking here.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has information about this crime.