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Man charged in Firestone tire-skiving/resale scheme

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Bridgestone/Firestone Americas Holding Inc. hired a private investigator to find out why some Firestone tires were being sold at incredibly low prices on a Web site.

That investigation lead to Vernald Cole, 55, of Remus, Mich., being charged with one count of intentionally misrepresenting the quality of a motor vehicle part with the intent of selling that part. If found guilty, Cole could spend up to 10 years in jail, pay a fine up to $20,000, or both.

According to a criminal complaint filed today in the 77th District Court in Big Rapids, Mich., Attorney General Jennifer M. Granholm accuses Cole of knowingly selling used tires with the DOT numbers removed.

The tires are believed to be from Ford's Firestone recall replacement program. Instead of the tires being destroyed, Cole is accused of skiving off the numbers, which rendered them unsafe, then offering them for resale.

An alert Bridgestone/Firestone employee saw the Firestone tires being offered on a Web site at very low prices. The company hired the private investigator, who, after a multi-state investigation, tracked down Cole and turned the case over to the Michigan Attorney General's Office, the Department of Transportation and the Michigan police.

Today Attorney General Granholm and Bridgestone/Firestone officials held four news conferences in Michigan, urging consumers to check their tires for DOT numbers and other safety factors.

"As the home of the automobile, we, in Michigan, have a unique perspective on automobile safety, and we take it seriously," says Granholm. "We'll continue to use every tool at our disposal to prosecute those who put that safety at risk."

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