The owner of a moving company in Colorado pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in a scheme that defrauded at least 75 people.
Yaron “Roni” Levin, 43, was initially charged with five federal counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, extortion, theft from interstate shipments and falsely making bills of lading, according to a January 2012 indictment filed in U.S. District Court of Colorado.
Levin is the owner of Movers USA LLC/A Golden Hand Moving, a Denver-based moving company. The U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General announced the guilty plea via press release on Nov. 27.
The release stated that Levin “routinely doubled quoted estimates for an average increase of $2,000 to $5,000, although some victims were charged as much as $10,000 over initial estimates.”
According to the indictment, Levin and his co-defendants devised a scheme to defraud customers “by offering extremely low moving estimates, taking possession of customers’ personal property, and then fraudulently inflating the price of the Movers USA/Golden Hand transport of the customers’ goods.”
The defendants would then withhold delivery of the items until the customers paid the inflated price.
The scheme involved two other moving companies – Worldwide Van Lines of Delray Beach, Fla., and Neighbors Van Lines of Pompano Beach, Fla. – which would advertise discount rates for moving services on websites. Those companies presented themselves as carriers, but actually served as brokers, selling the loads they received to Levin’s company. The brokers kept the deposits from customers as their payment for generating job “leads” for Levin.
Customers were sent an emailed estimate, based on the volume in cubic feet of the furniture, which was then converted to weight at a rate of approximately 7 pounds per cubic foot. The estimated weight was then multiplied by a cost per pound to arrive at the “non-binding” estimated shipping cost.
The indictment states Levin’s company would “purposefully delay” the move in order to force a friend or family member to stay behind and meet the movers. They would then attempt to renegotiate the original estimate, and use the renegotiated contracts to extract additional money from the victims. The company also set up warehouses to store the customers’ goods until payments at the inflated rates had been received.
The indictment lists victims who paid 102 percent to 351 percent increases from the estimates.
A sentencing hearing is set for Jan. 27, 2014.
Copyright © OOIDA