Watertown lady pleads guilty to role in utilized automobile rip-off

WATERBURY – A Watertown woman who conspired with a Waterbury guy in a employed automobile fraud that included rolling again the odometers of more mature automobiles in Missouri, then advertising them to dozens of unsuspecting consumers, pleaded guilty Monday to her role in the scheme.

Susan L. Cunningham, 48, of Oakville, pleaded responsible to wire fraud when she appeared via Zoom before U.S. District Decide Michael P. Shea. That plea follows an investigation of Wilfred Albanese, a Waterbury man, who sold at minimum 48 cars and trucks and SUVs, which authorities say experienced their odometers “rolled back” in order to make it appear to be as while the cars and trucks were minimal-mileage vehicles.

Those people rollbacks transpired in 2014 and 2015 just after Albanese moved to Missouri where he advertised the cars and trucks on Craigslist, in accordance to federal authorities. Albanese also concealed mechanical problems with the cars and trucks by removing the “check engine” mild on the dashboards and gave consumers phony upkeep receipts and vehicle historical past reports, federal court data show.

In many situations, he purchased cars with far more than 200,000 miles on them, then rolled the odometers back again to make it surface the cars had 50 % that mileage.

For occasion, federal authorities say he tampered with the odometer of a 1999 Toyota Camry, rolling back again the quantity of miles from about 271,000 to 115,448. In a different occasion, they allege he made it appear to be as if a 1998 Ford Explorer had 118,049 when he experienced bought it with 202,045.

He hid rust and other injury to the cars and SUVs employing paint and other procedures. He also made use of bogus identities to receive “Certificates of Title” for the made use of cars that he obtained, authorities alleged.

He was initially billed in a 20-depend indictment in Missouri the place most of the automobiles were being sold, but the circumstance was transferred back again to Connecticut soon after law enforcement arrested him in New London in 2019.

Cunningham shared a house with Albanese, and a prosecutor explained Monday that Cunningham was the extra computer system savvy defendant who concentrated on paperwork, whilst Albanese was the extra mechanically inclined.

Cunningham admitted Monday she would generate the ads for Craigslist, which stated the mileage on the car was noticeably decreased than the actual mileage, or that it was properly taken care of, but she knew that data was false. In some situations, she explained she created fake Carfax stories by altering the motor vehicle identification quantities on the files.

“It was illegal, it was morally wrong and it hurt people. I’m obtaining a difficult time dwelling with this scenario and what was done to these men and women,” Cunningham reported Monday.

A plea deal calls for Cunningham to commit concerning 15 to 21 months in jail and to be less than supervision of authorities for up to a few yrs, but that array is centered on federal guidelines, which Shea is not obligated to stick to when he sentences her later this yr. Cunningham is currently cost-free on bond and is owing again in court docket in April.

Prosecutors are also expected to request that Shea order her to fork out back again $51,600 in restitution to the car house owners who ended up ripped off in the fraud. Albanese was sentenced final year to 42 months in prison, adopted by 3 yrs of supervised launch, for fraud and identification theft offenses stemming from the sale of several utilized automobiles with altered odometers.

The Countrywide Highway Transportation Basic safety Administration estimates that odometer fraud success in customer losses of extra than $1 billion per year, in accordance to the U.S. Attorney’s Workplace.

People with information relating to odometer tampering need to phone the odometer fraud hotline at 888-327-4236 or 202-366-4761. A lot more information and facts on odometer fraud is offered on the administration’s site at www.nhtsa.gov.