Kentucky 'chameleon carrier' owners found guilty of wire fraud, extortion

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 3/30/2016

A jury has found the owners of a Kentucky trucking company guilty of a “chameleon carrier” scheme. They extracted money from companies shipping cargo freight in interstate commerce by breaking contract agreements and using false identities, court documents reveal.

Elliot Campbell was found guilty of six counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act extortion. Elliot’s wife, Melinda Campbell, was guilty of five counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act extortion.

The Campbells operated the motor carrier companies Interstate Lines, West Coast Trans, and Zink from CATTS Auto Sales in Chavies, Ky. Online load boards were used to conduct business with brokers. Their dispatcher, Bryan Napier, was also a defendant in the case.

Despite a contract agreeing on payment once the freight had been delivered, the three defendants would demand payment upon picking up the load. If payment was not received, they threatened not to deliver the load.

Also within many of the broker agreements, defendants accepted jobs as “exclusive loads” that would be delivered by a dedicated team of drivers. However, the Campbells and Napier would consolidate those jobs into a single load in a single trailer driven by a single driver.

Once brokers began to file complaints, the defendants would construct a new business under a different name and continue the scheme, also known as a “chameleon carrier.” In order to start a new business, Napier and both Campbells had to use different names, cite different locations, and lie about any affiliation with an FMCSA-regulated entity in the past three years.

To pull off the scheme, aliases and false names were used when conducting businesses with brokers. Internet phone protocols were used to give their phone numbers an area code outside Kentucky.

Since false names and a business started under false pretenses were used while conducting business with brokers, charges of wire fraud were brought on the defendants as a result of money being transferred via electronic means across state borders.

The fraud scheme ran from October 2010 to February 2012. In June 2015, Napier pleaded guilty to charges. Sentencing for the Campbells is scheduled for June 14.

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