Three to serve prison time in household goods conviction

| Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Three men who operated five Brooklyn, NY, moving companies were ordered by a U.S. District Court judge in Brooklyn to spend more than 13 years in prison and pay more than $1.4 million in fines and restitution for a scheme that attempted to extort money from unsuspecting customers.

Avinoam Damti, the owner of Starving Students Moving and Storage, On-Time Van Lines and Newstart Moving, was fined $1 million for his lead role in the scheme. Damti and Ofer Yosef, president of On-Time Van Lines, were each ordered to serve 12 years and 7 months in prison and pay $437,753 in restitution. Yosef was also fined $10,000. Shlomo Hababa, president of Newstart Moving, was sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay $776 in restitution.

The men were convicted by a jury following a six-week trial in connection with a scheme to lure customers with artificially low estimates and then later hold their household goods hostage until large additional payments were made. It is estimated the men extorted at least $437,000 from more than 100 victims.

Damti and Yosef were found guilty of criminal conspiracy, extortion, mail fraud and making false statements. Hababa was convicted of wire fraud. The case, investigated by the DOT Office of the Inspector General and the FBI with assistance from FMCSA, is part of a national OIG investigation into household goods moving fraud.

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