Utah is getting tough with people who falsify the number of miles a car has been driven in order to sell the car for more money.

State investigators are cracking down harder on odometer fraud than they have for eight years, investigating several used-car dealerships in the state and devoting months to building cases that they hope will win convictions in federal court.The Motor Vehicle Business Administration has assigned two investigators to work full time on odometer fraud. Last year, the department convicted 17 people for such fraud. Several of them owned used-car dealerships and were charged with more than a dozen counts of fraud, theft or forgery for misrepresenting the mileage of several cars they sold.

The state agency began hitting odometer fraud hard several months ago after learning that the problem is on the rise nationally.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates U.S. consumers are ripped off to the tune of nearly $5 billion annually through odometer fraud, said Jim Erikson, a state investigator.

Most used car dealers don't alter odometers, Erickson said. But there are several out there who do.

Owners of Executive Motors, Bountiful, and First Impressions Auto Sales, Salt Lake City, were convicted last year of odometer fraud. Both dealers went out of business.

Erikson believes there is a lot more odometer fraud going on than investigators discover. Most problems only come to light when a title has been obviously falsified or a consumer reports the fraud, and many consumers don't know where to turn when they are ripped off.