Moving company owner sent to prison for extortion

| Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A moving company owner from Scottsdale, Ariz., and Pompano Beach, Fla., was sentenced to one year in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $80,000 in restitution for his role in fraudulently increasing rates for customers, according to federal court documents.

From August 2010 to October 2012, Louis Massaro – owner of Moving and Storage Inc. – conducted business as a household goods moving company under the name Neighbors Moving and Storage. Massaro, unbeknownst to his clients, contracted his jobs to another motor carrier.

Massaro’s scheme began with offering customers low prices, which would be the fixed rate with a deposit and a binding fee, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General. Meanwhile, the customer was unaware another moving company was transporting the household goods.

Once payments were made, Massaro and his accomplices claimed there were more items than expected in the original quote, consequently raising the price. Massaro also claimed the total weight of the goods was more than stated in the binding quote, piling on even higher fees. According to OIG, this could add thousands of dollars to the bill.

In these instances, customers did not receive their property until all fees were paid. Victims of the scheme were instructed that additional storage fees would apply until all payments were received. Threats of auctioning off property were made to pressure the customer to pay.

This investigation was part of DOT-OIG’s Operation Boxed Up, which is a national investigative initiative to locate, identify, and prosecute interstate household goods movers who are defrauding consumers. DOT-OIG is conducting this investigation with the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigations, and Department of Labor OIG, with assistance from FMCSA.

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