Crime report: Insurance fraud lands trucking company owner in prison

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Action in three trucking-related crimes has recently been reported by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, including another fraudulent CDL testing scheme, illegal hazmat transport and insurance fraud.

N.J. trucking co. owner sentenced over insurance fraud

A New Jersey trucking company owner was sentenced this week to nine years in a state prison for filing more than $1.2 million in false claims for refrigerated cargo that allegedly spoiled in cross-country transport. Palm Coast, Florida, resident Alexei Legassov, must also pay $1,286,911 in restitution to two insurance companies – Harleysville Insurance Company, which has now merged with Nationwide Insurance, and American International Group.

According to New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, Legassov pleaded guilty in January to second-degree insurance fraud and misconduct by a corporate official. The charges stemmed from crimes he committed in connection with several trucking companies he owned or operated in Middlesex County, N.J., including Akmos Trade Ltd.; Moon and Eggplant Ltd.; Passing Score LLC; and G.K. Refrigerated Line, LLC.

Grewal says that between July 2012 and May 2017, Legassov submitted more than a dozen fraudulent insurance claims for losses purportedly incurred then the reefer units on his trucks broke down in transport, damaging or destroying fruits, vegetables, frozen cakes and other refrigerated goods. According to Grewal, the cargo never existed or had not been damaged or destroyed.

“Cargo fraud has a trickle-down effect that impacts everyone. It drives up insurance premiums for honest trucking companies, which increases the cost of transporting food. As a result, we all pay higher prices at the grocery store,” Grewal said in a press release. “The significant prison sentence this defendant received should serve as a deterrent to other business owners tempted to illegally pad their bottom line by cheating carriers that insure cargo vital to commerce.”

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California man gets prison time for illegally transporting hazmat

Ernesto Alvarez Jr., a California-based trucker, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for transporting hazardous materials – specifically consumer-grade fireworks – without proper placarding. He was also sentenced to 36 months supervised release and a $100 special assessment fee.

In May 2016, an estimated 200,000 pounds of illegal fireworks were found during a search warrant in South Gate, Calif. According to OIG, large quantities of fireworks were found inside a warehouse, in four semi-trailers and in a rental moving truck. In addition to the commercial fireworks, remnants of fireowrks manufacturing materials were present in the warehouse, including explosive flash powder.

All of the fireworks in the rental truck belonged to Alvarez and were transported to California from Nevada, OIG adds. He was later arrested for possession of a destructive device and indicted in December 2016. He pleaded guilty to the hazmat transportation charge in November 2017.

Third-party CDL examiner pleads guilty for role in CDL skills test scheme

Andre Cooper, a third-party CDL examiner in Mississippi, pleaded guilty to making false statements for his role in a CDL testing scheme.

According to OIG, Cooper accepted cash from multiple CDL applicants in lieu of conducting the CDL skills test. Instead, he provided the applicants with a CDL skills test score sheet, falsely certifying that they had completed the test.

The investigation found that over the course of three years, Cooper provided approximately 75 individuals with paperwork that falsely stated they had passed the CDL skills test, and he had been paid between $200 and $300 per test. The CDLs of those individuals have been revoked by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety.