Man sentenced to 30 months for odometer rollback scheme

May 22, 1998|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

A former chief investigator for the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison yesterday for his part in an odometer rollback scheme that cost consumers over $5 million.

George Willard Osenburg, 53, of Towson was no longer working for the MVA when he and 14 others conspired to roll back the odometers on at least 1,200 cars. But the expertise he gleaned from his 11 years with the agency made him a useful asset to the ring, federal prosecutors said.

Between 1985 and 1994, Osenburg and the others -- all convicted in U.S. District Court in Baltimore -- rolled back odometers on high-mileage cars and altered the vehicles' official documents. The cars were then sold to unwitting customers at inflated prices.

For instance, the Maryland-based ring bought a 1991 Ford Explorer with 120,064 miles for $11,400. One month later, ring members sold the vehicle for $16,980 after forging the title and rolling back the odometer to 30,607 miles, court papers said.

Osenburg was the chief investigator in the MVA's dealer-licensing section before he resigned in February 1982, MVA officials said.

He told U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake yesterday that he was sorry for what he had done and asked for probation.

"It's been a lot of strain and embarrassment for me and my family," he said. "I would like a chance to start a new life."

But Blake said she had to sentence Osenburg to prison due to "the massive and extensive consumer fraud in this case."

Federal authorities are searching for the leader of the fraud ring, Theodore Schecter, a Towson resident who didn't appear for his sentencing in December.

Schecter, considered a fugitive, could be sentenced to 17 to 21 years for rolling back odometers and money laundering.

The ring purchased cars at auctions around the country and sold them at dealerships in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Alabama and New Jersey, prosecutors said.

Federal agents describe the operation as one of the country's largest odometer rollback schemes. Odometer fraud inflates used-car prices by more than $4 billion each year, according to government estimates.

Pub Date: 5/22/98

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