Dashboard Deception: Duo sold cars with altered odometers, titles, police say

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) -
Green Bay Police are asking people who've purchased cars online in the last year to take a closer look at their vehicles.

Robert Solberg and Joshua Taylor. Photos: Brown County Jail

Robert J. Solberg, 34, and Joshua A. Taylor, 37, were arrested after investigators say the duo rolled back odometers and altered titles on dozens of vehicles prior to re-selling them in Central and Northeast Wisconsin.

Police are recommending charges of Forgery and Theft by Fraud to the Brown County District Attorney's Office.

Robert Solberg has been released from jail. Taylor remains behind bars on a probation hold.

Since our Target 2 Investigates report aired Tuesday, Green Bay Police have received numerous calls from potential victims of odometer tampering.

Police believe there are many more victims out there, and they are urging drivers who may have been conned to come forward.

A single complaint from a Green Bay resident in May launched the weeks-long investigation.

"The one recognized that something just wasn't right about the vehicle related to the mileage and reported it to us," says Lt. Ben Allen, Green Bay Police Dept.

Lt. Allen says Robert Solberg and Joshua Taylor were buying used cars for the purpose of re-selling them. Before the cars went up for sale, the duo altered the odometers, Allen says. That action is a felony in Wisconsin.

"Rolling back odometers, with an electronic tool, and he's also ordering dash components from other vehicles that have lower mileage and installing them into vehicles that have higher mileage," Allen says.

Investigators believe Solberg and Taylor were altering and re-selling as many as 20 vehicles a month over a one-year period.

Police say the duo has been in Green Bay, Wausau, Marinette, and Door County. They may have hit additional locations.

SEARCH WARRANTS

Green Bay Police and the Brown County Sheriff's Office served three search warrants Monday morning at homes in Green Bay and Allouez. They also searched a storage facility on Green Bay's far east side.

Investigators believe the storage facility is where Solberg and Taylor worked on the vehicles.

"A vehicle we took into custody yesterday was a 2006 with original miles of 290,000. They advertise it as a 2007, with a 140,000 miles," Allen says.

Police have seized six vehicles, replacement dashboard parts and a tool used to roll back digital odometers.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF

Investigators believe the duo was altering mileage information on titles. That makes it more difficult for buyers to notice potential discrepancies.

Police ask anyone who has purchased a vehicle from Robert Solberg and Joshua Taylor to give them a call.

"If you are a Green Bay resident or this occurred in the City of Green Bay, we certainly want to know about it because they were doing it in Marinette County, Wausau," Lt. Allen says. "If this occurred where a purchase was made in another jurisdiction, we definitely encourage them to contact their local agency and we'll try to coordinate with them."

It's possible that they used other names or different phone numbers.

"We do know that they were using multiple phone numbers, typically known as a burner phone, and advertising different phone numbers on some of the internet sale sites," Allen says.

Buyers should always do their research before jumping into a deal that's too good to be true.

"There are websites out there that will check VINs for you and check service records, which each service record has a mileage attached to it. And if you don't see much for mileage documentation or service, look for something else," Allen says.

The DMV recommends getting a Carfax or AutoCheck Report before you purchase a vehicle. There's a small fee, but they track everything from oil changes to accident history.

FAMILIAR NAME

The Solberg name may sound familiar. Robert Solberg is the younger brother of John Solberg, the subject of several Target 2 Investigates reports on alleged car fraud.

John Solberg is under federal investigation related to the Standard Pre-Owned car consignment business in Northeast Wisconsin.

Target 2 Investigates broke the story in May of 2016 after investigators served a search warrant at the Suamico location. Investigators identified the owner as John Solberg. The warrant says John Solberg would contact people trying to sell cars on Craigslist and offer to do it for them. Investigators say Solberg “refused to pay… the owners… after the sale." They also accused him of selling vehicles for a lower price or refusing to return cars to their owners.

The case started with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation in 2011. The Brown County Sheriff's Office started their investigation in 2016. It is now in the hands of federal authorities.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers recently signed a bill passed in response to the John Solberg investigation. It's designed to crack down on fraudulent vehicle sales. The law simplifies the process for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to deny, suspend or revoke certain licenses. It also allows the DOT to address "the most severe cases of fraud." CLICK HERE to learn more about the law.

Police say John Solberg is not involved in the investigation into his brother and Joshua Taylor. However, the law passed in response to the John Solberg case did help them in the investigation into his own brother, police say.

"Looking at it now, yes. I think as we were moving through this, things were happening so fast that it was in the back of our mind that we had that in our back pocket," Lt. Allen says. "But certainly, pushing through, and great information from concerned citizens about what was going on and how people were being wronged because of these two."

Again, police ask anyone who may have been victimized by Robert Solberg and Joshua Taylor to contact their local law enforcement.