GMAC denounced the suit, saying it was a victim, too.
COLUMBUS -- A Columbiana County car dealer and a national car leasing company are being accused by the state of scheming to roll back odometers on formerly leased vehicles that were sold to the public.
Attorney General Jim Petro filed a civil suit Thursday saying Midway Motor Sales Inc. of New Waterford and the General Motors Acceptance Corp. had sold 2-year-old cars, trucks and vans with as much as 50,000 pulled off their odometers.
According to the suit, Midway had an agreement to market GMAC cars with two-year leases and a 30,000-mile allowance. But from 2000 to 2004, the suit alleges, Midway leased the vehicles to a Youngstown business with a two-year allowance of 60,000 to 80,000 miles.
After the lease ended, Midway rolled the odometers back on the high-mileage vehicles to below 30,000, the suit claims.
The vehicles were then sold by either Midway or GMAC at different locations, including the Columbus Fair Auction in Franklin County.
GMAC issued a blistering response, saying it was a victim itself and the suit would discourage whistleblowers.
"GMAC discovered the problem, put a stop to it, corrected the harm, and brought it to the attorney general's attention in the first place," GMAC General Counsel William Solomon said in a statement. "On its own initiative, GMAC identified the owners then in possession of the vehicles, 23 of whom were in Ohio, and either paid them a monetary adjustment for the odometer discrepancy on their vehicles, or bought back the vehicles."
But Michelle Gatchell, a spokeswoman for Petro, said that the company should have had better oversight and was the owner of record of many of the cars that were sold to the public.
"It's not enough to report the problem; there are consequences to violating the laws of Ohio," she said.
The attorney general does not have criminal jurisdiction in this area. Gatchell said the information in the civil suit was referred to the Columbiana County prosecutor.
The attorney general is asking Franklin County Common Pleas Court to order a halt to the practices, reimburse people who bought the vehicles or give them at least $1,500 in compensation.
The state is also asking that civil penalties be paid.
Midway Motor Sales filed bankruptcy shortly after GMAC reported the fraud. Its owner could not be reached.
Consumers who believe they may have a car with a tampered odometer can file a complaint with the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Section online at www.ag.state.oh.us or call the Consumer Protection Section Hotline, (800) 282-0515, to have a complaint form sent to them.