Hundreds of Queensland drivers who snapped up used cars could be caught with a clunker after police shut down a major odometer fraud scheme.
Five people, aged 23 to 47, have been arrested and charged with 40 offences and $400,000 in cash has been seized in police raids on homes south of Brisbane on Thursday.
Acting Inspector Mick Corby alleged a crime syndicate resold up to 700 second-hand vehicles in the past 12 months, predominantly targeting four-wheel drive enthusiasts.
The gang is accused of buying used cars as cheaply as possible, winding back their odometers, then with a cut and polish, reselling them at a huge mark-up through social media marketplaces.
Corby says one buyer thought he had bagged a bargain when he bought a Toyota Landcruiser through the gang.
“This particular car … was sold for $8000, and the records would suggest there were 400,000 kilometres on it at that point,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“It was on-sold to someone else, and the kilometres on the clock were around the 50,000 mark.
“The $8000 price turned into a $54,000 price at the time of purchasing it.”
While that case was an extreme example, Corby said the gang was regularly turning a profit of thousands of dollars on each used vehicle sold.
Police have only tested about 150 of the syndicate’s vehicles, with 15 clear cases of fraud detected to date.
However, Corby said hundreds of Queenslanders could be driving second-hand cars bought from the gang.
“There are 700 vehicles that they have sold out in the community … so it could be the case that people are in a position where they’ve got faulty vehicles,” he said.
“There’s likely to be a number of people who are driving cars that perhaps don’t have the correct odometer readings.”
Detectives stumbled upon the dodgy car scheme while investigating a string of gang-related public acts of violence and shootings in the South Brisbane and Logan districts.
Despite what many drivers may believe, odometer tampering is not uncommon – even with digital models, according to consumer advocacy group Choice.
“With a little know-how, someone looking to dupe a consumer could easily access some of the many odometer ‘correction’ devices available online,” Choice said in a 2016 article.
“And with little evidence of this kind of tampering, it’s difficult for the average consumer to detect and prove odometer fraud.”
Corby said drivers who believe they could be a victim should have their vehicles mechanically inspected and contact the police.