The operations manager for a California-based household goods moving company has been sentenced to 13 months in prison and to three years of supervised release for his role in a household goods “low-ball estimate” scheme.
Asaf “Dan” Nass pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif.
Court documents allege that Nass, who worked for AY Transport Inc. of San Jose, Calif., participated in a scheme with a household goods brokerage, National Moving Network of Miami, Fla., to provide low estimates to customers. Then once the deposit had been received, and after AY had the customers’ possessions, they inflated the price.
Once a customer’s goods had been loaded on a truck, an AY employee would and did “inflate the total price of the move by claiming that the customer’s goods weighed more than had been originally estimated by NMN, or by overcharging the customers for packing material,” court documents allege.
If the customers refused to pay the inflated amount, their possessions were held in storage lockers or sometimes sold at auction, according to a news release issued about the investigation by the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“Upon taking custody of a customer’s goods, AY employees raised the price, typically at Nass’ direction,” the OIG release stated. “The increased fees for release of the goods sometimes totaled two to three times the amount of the original bid provided by National Moving Network.”
AY drivers also rushed customers through the paperwork, “causing them to sign blank paperwork or incomplete bills of lading and other documents, and failed to inform them of the actual price of the move prior to loading customer goods,” court documents allege.
Nass has been ordered to pay a $100 special assessment fine. A determination of restitution Nass must also pay has been deferred until May 21. He has also been ordered not to have any contact with the 13 other co-defendants who were allegedly involved in the scheme.
The investigation, which stems back to 2002, was conducted by the DOT, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
“The extremely low bid price, the referral to AY, the drivers’ rushing customers through paperwork, the increase in the price after taking possession of customers’ goods, and the refusal to release said goods unless the customers paid the increased price were all coordinated parts of the conspiracy designed to work together to extort maximum money from the customers,” according to court documents.