Two plead guilty to defrauding carriers in multimillion-dollar scheme

Two Southern California men pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges for using a federal Internet site to defraud trucking companies out of at least $2.4 million, the office of the U.S. attorney for the central district of California reported. The men are scheduled to be sentenced on June 29.

Nicholas Lakes, also known as Dmitry Nadezhdin, 35, of Glendale, and Viacheslav Berkovich, 34, of the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles, both pleaded guilty Feb. 24 to computer fraud and mail fraud charges before U.S. District Judge John F. Walter. In plea agreements filed with the court, Lakes and Berkovich admitted that they entered into a scheme to defraud trucking companies and brokers through use of the Internet. They accessed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Safety and Fitness Electronic Records System (SAFER) website in order to register fictitious carrier and brokerage entities, and they then used commercial loadboards to double-broker loads to legitimate trucking companies they never paid.

For example, in January 2008, Lakes and Berkovich accessed the Internet Truckstop website and obtained information about a load being brokered by Dallas-based Stevens Transport. Using the name of Vega Trucking, one of the fictitious companies they had registered on the SAFER website, Lakes and Berkovich agreed with Stevens Transport to transport the load for $3,400. Lakes and Berkovich then illicitly used the name of Barkfelt Transport, a legitimate brokerage, to arrange for RK Trucking to transport the load for $4,000. RK Trucking in fact transported the load, but never got paid for its work. In early February 2008, Lakes and Berkovich received a $3,390 check via the mail from Stevens Transport, which was deposited into an account for Vega Trucking. Berkovich was the account holder for this Bank of America account.

Lakes faces a maximum statutory sentence of 70 years in federal prison, and he has agreed to forfeit his interest in $1.14 million in an investment account. Berkovich faces a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison.

In other recent federal court cases related to trucking, two men were sentenced and another pled guilty:

  • David Hernandez was sentenced Feb. 25 by a federal court in Memphis to 20 months in prison for his role in selling bogus freight bills to a factoring company while he served as a manager at a now-defunct trucking company based in Dyersburg, Tenn. Hernandez also faces three years’ probation and more than $310,000 in restitution.
  • James Hallmon was sentenced in late January by a federal court in Maryland to 21 months in prison and nearly $344,000 in restitution for filing false claims for fuel tax credits in the names of several trucking companies and other affiliated corporations.
  • Aaron Misulovin pleaded guilty on Feb. 27 in a New Jersey federal court to a variety of charges related to evasion of about $138 million in federal and state motor fuels taxes. Misulovin, who had returned to the United States after nearly 13 years as a fugitive, had operated wholesale fuel distributorship Kings Motor Oils, which had resold through shell entities hundreds of millions of gallons of tax-free home heating oil as diesel fuel for highway use. The taxes collected were distributed among conspirators.