Alberto Navarro Zapata, a 27-year-old Stockton man, was arrested Thursday for odometer tampering, theft by false pretenses, and acting as an unlicensed car dealer. Zapata resisted arrest and was eventually apprehended by 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.
A seven month investigation began after a victim bought a vehicle on the Craigslist website in the Fresno area. While at DMV registering the vehicle it was determined the mileage on the odometer was altered to be significantly lower than it actually was. The victim then identified Zapata in a photo lineup. The investigation found Zapata was purchasing Honda and Acura vehicles, lowering the vehicle’s odometer, altering the title, then reselling the vehicles on Craigslist across the Central Valley.
(Suspect photo from an unrelated case of odometer tampering.)
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.
“Zapata’s fraudulent acts caused victims to pay a substantial amount more for a vehicle than its true market value,” said Central Area Commander Tom Wilson. “Make sure you do research on the vehicle before buying a used vehicle and beware of high pressure tactics, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”
A new study from automobile research firm Carfax shows California has the highest total of car showing evidence of odometer fraud. Nearly 300,000 cars now on the road in California are affected, according to the study. This trend is something every Californian looking to buy a used car should watch out for.
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.
DMV’s Investigations Division enhances consumer protection including auto and identity-related fraud, car dealers, driving schools, traffic violator schools and other DMV occupational licensees, as well as internal affairs investigations.