Investigators say a Kansas City man helped them set up an undercover sting to bust a pair of brothers who police say were ripping off car buyers around the metro.
Detectives say the duo were rolling back odometers hundreds of thousands of miles.
Platte County prosecutors have charged Jesus Mondragon with felony odometer fraud. They also charged his brother, Alfredo Mondragon, with felony forgery.
Victims say the two played the part of scam artists well. They say they dressed nice, cleaned up the cars and trucks they had for sale, and said all the right things.
Unfortunately, the victims say they learned the hard way, none of it was true.
"It drove nice. It sounded nice," scam victim Robert Martin said.
Martin thought he was getting one heck of a deal when he bought a 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
When Martin bought the Jeep, the odometer read about 80,000 miles.
Martin saw the Jeep up for sale on Craigslist. Investigators say one of the Mondragon brothers met Martin at a QuikTrip to rip him off.
"He had a Carfax. I verified the numbers. Everything looked well, so I bought it," Martin said.
After the sale, Martin bought his own Carfax. He found the seller's Carfax was bogus. Investigators say Jesus and Alfredo Mondragon manipulated the odometer and rolled it back about 100,000 miles.
"I was shocked. I went straight to the police station," Martin said.
Cpl. Nate Bradley, with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, says everyone tends to see something and think it is a really good deal and rush to get the item before anyone else jumps on it.
Before the Mondragons' arrest, Bradley says the brothers tried the odometer fraud scam again on another victim.
"He was about to go to the bank and take out $10,000 and buy a truck that was worth about $2,000," Bradley said. "He thought he was buying a legit, squared away truck. What he was actually going to be buying is something that was worth much, much less."
However, the man used his own Carfax and discovered the truck he was about to buy had the odometer rolled back about 80,000 miles.
He didn't want anyone else to get scammed, so he helped police set up an undercover buy at a Northland Home Depot. An officer posed as a potential buyer and quickly made an arrest.
Martin is thankful for the man who set up the sting. He hopes no one else falls for the same scam he did.
"I thought I was doing everything right. I did learn some lessons. Don't look at their Carfax. Take your own Carfax. Don't pay cash for a used car from an individual," Martin said.
Martin says he wishes he would have snapped a picture of the man he bought the Jeep from. He also wishes he had paid with a check to help investigators track down the scammer faster.
Investigators say before people buy anything, they should verify their transaction and always purchase their own vehicle history report.
So far, investigators say they know of six victims, but there could be more.
Investigators say the Mondragon brothers also scammed a Northland pastor and a mother buying her teenager their first car.
Officers say both of those vehicles also had odometers rolled back and many mechanical issues. Experts say that, even with a Carfax report, potential buyers still need to take a close look at the car. Inspections should include checking underneath it for signs of oil or other fluid leaks, as well as looking at the undercarriage for any rust.
If you bought a car from one of the Mondragon brothers and think you got scammed, you should call the Missouri Highway Patrol at 816-622-0800.
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