Owners plead guilty in freight forwarding fraud case

By Clarissa Hawes, Land Line staff writer | 8/16/2013

The owners of a fraudulent trucking and shipping company have pleaded guilty to their roles in a freight forwarding scheme based in Biloxi, Miss.

From about March to July 2009, Dustin L. Griswold and Jennifer L. Griswold allegedly created a fake shipping and transportation company known as Harmoni Shipping.

According to court documents, the Griswolds would find businesses online that were seeking shipping or transportation services. Then they would contract with United Parcel Service (UPS) Freight or other trucking companies to transport the goods. The Griswolds would then pocket the money, failing to pay the third-party carriers for their services.

On Aug. 14, Jennifer Griswold, also known as Jennifer Lynn McDaniel or Jennifer Dubois, pleaded guilty to withholding information on a crime. She faces up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

A week earlier on Aug. 7, her husband, Dustin Griswold pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

The Griswolds are scheduled to be sentenced in November. Jennifer Griswold is free on bond, while her husband is being held without bond.

According to court documents, Jennifer Griswold told UPS Freight that a wire transfer had been sent for $29,000, which wasn’t true, when it called for payment.

She later said a check had been mailed to the company, then another time told a UPS Freight employee that “their house had been broken into, all of their checks stolen, and their bank account had been frozen.”

Another time Jennifer Griswold told a UPS official to contact another trucking company it contracted with, AWM Transportation, to have the company send her company a check first so she could in turn pay UPS Freight.

Dustin Griswold also stated that he could not pay UPS until he received a check from AWM, that “someone had erased files on his computers, and that someone had stolen his checkbook.”

In July 2009, the Griswolds allegedly sent an email to AWM Transportation, stating the company’s  freight “was being held for ransom on the side of the road and would not be delivered until Harmoni Shipping received payment” from them.

The Griswolds were indicted on federal charges on May 14.

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