A San Francisco Bay Area used car dealer and his wife -- suspected in what DMV officials say is the state's biggest car dealership odometer tampering case in memory -- have been hit with nearly 80 charges in Contra Costa County Superior Court.
The charges against 52-year-old George Guevara and Danielle Guevara, 45, include 20 counts of unlawfully rolling back a car odometer, more than a dozen counts of grand theft by false pretenses, a dozen counts of attempting to file a false or forged instrument with the DMV, a dozen perjury counts and 10 counts of attempted grand theft of personal property, according to a complaint filed Wednesday.
The charges stem from the alleged rollback of odometers on cars with high mileage that the couple later sold at Jorge's California Car Sales in Antioch at 1104 Auto Center Dr. from January 2013 to June 2014.
"This is the largest odometer tampering case that we've found involving an actual licensed automobile dealer," said DMV investigator Tom Wilson.
Wilson said the investigation into the dealership began in April after a customer learned from a mechanic that the car she had recently bought from the dealership actually had twice as much mileage as the amount indicated on the vehicle's odometer.
After diving into records of other cars sold by the Guevaras, investigators served a search warrant at the dealership, where they learned that 13 of the cars on the lot had a much lower mileage than the vehicles' recorded mileage when they had been sold at auction just weeks earlier, Wilson said.
Further investigation revealed the dealership had rolled back the odometers on more than 100 cars over the past several years, he said.
According to the court complaint, George Guevara would buy used cars at auctions, then replace the vehicles' odometers with those with low mileages purchased from junkyards and other local businesses.
Danielle Guevara allegedly created stickers listing the Kelley Blue book value of the car at the lower mileage rate and placed them on the windows of the cars for sale, prosecutors said.
George Guevara was arrested in connection with the alleged scheme in June but was later released as the investigation continued.
Both he and his wife turned themselves in on the charges on Tuesday and were booked into county jail, Wilson said.
George Guevara is being held on $1 million bail, while Danielle Guevara has been released on bail.
The couple is scheduled to appear in court for arraignment next Thursday.
According to Wilson, odometer tampering is becoming increasingly common throughout Northern California and the Bay Area, with rates of the crime rising rapidly since 2012.
In many cases, suspects use software designed to roll back digital odometers, essentially "hacking the car's system," he said.
Prospective used car buyers are encouraged to research the car online using vehicle history services such as CarFax.
"Ask to take the car to a reputable mechanic and have them check the vehicle out to make sure it's safe and the wear and tear on the car is consistent with the mileage," Wilson said.
If the mileage is noticeably low on an older car, "it could be a red flag," he said.