CCJ Daily Dispatch, July 1: Former fleet owner charged following alleged fraud against Amazon

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Updated Jul 2, 2020

Trucking news and briefs for Wednesday, July 1, 2020:

Former Rhode Island trucking co. owner charged with fraud against Amazon
The owner of a for-hire carrier in Rhode Island has been charged with wire fraud and mail fraud following an alleged ongoing fraud scheme.

Michael Chaves, former owner of CAT Inc., had been on pretrial supervision as a result of charges stemming from a scheme to defraud the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, according to the DOT Office of Inspector General. His release was based on the condition that he not commit another local, state or federal crime. He was charged on July 24, 2019, and pled guilty to charges on Aug. 22.

On approximately March 31, 2020, while he was on pretrial release, OIG says Amazon.com contacted investigators with information regarding an alleged ongoing fraud being perpetrated by Chaves.

Amazon alleged that since March 2017, Chaves held approximately 30 Amazon customer accounts under various names and email addresses. During that time, the accounts placed approximately 10,795 orders totaling more than $700,000, most of which were refunded based on Chaves’ alleged return of the purchased items.

OIG says Chaves received approximately $643,324.04 in concessions or refunds on approximately 7,450 orders. In an attempt to deceive Amazon’s incoming inspection process, many of the returned items were in the original packaging.

The majority of Chaves’ purchases and returns consisted of motor vehicle and commercial motor vehicle parts. Chaves allegedly often replaced the originally ordered product with a substitute that at first glance appeared visually similar to the original, but instead was sometimes a used or inferior version.

Arizona extends increased truck weight limits
Carriers hauling overweight loads in Arizona with “critical supplies and goods during the current public health situation” now have through July 30 to haul those loads without additional permits.

The Arizona Department of Transportation announced the waiver extension Tuesday allowing loads up to 90,000 pounds without the need for an overweight permit, up from the normal 80,000 pounds. ADOT says this waiver is in line with waivers in neighboring states.

The waiver was last set to expire June 30.

South Florida physician’s assistant sentenced in med cert scheme
The DOT Office of Inspector General announced South Florida-based physician’s assistant Ronald Sherry has been sentenced to six months of home confinement, 60 months of probation, 500 hours of community service and a $100 special assessment for his role in a DOT medical exam scheme.

OIG says Sherry pled guilty in February to falsification of records and obstruction related to fraudulent medical exams of CDL holders.

Sherry was a FMCSA-certified medical examiner authorized to conduct physicals of CDL applicants and holders. A review of CDL medical examinations for 2016 and 2017 indicated that Sherry performed 10 times the national average of CDL medical examinations.

Trucker caught with $20 million worth of marijuana at U.S.-Canada border
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents in Buffalo, New York, arrested a 26-year-old truck driver June 25 who crossed into the U.S. from Canada with almost five tons of marijuana valued at approximately $20 million.

The 9,472 pounds of marijuana was discovered at the Peace Bridge Cargo Facility and ranks as the largest narcotics seizure recorded on the northern border and ranks 23rd in U.S. in the last five years, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Federal prosecutors said 26-year-old Prabjot Nagra, a citizen of India with permanent Canadian residency status, was driving a truck loaded with 55 wooden pallet boxes that contained vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana.

Paperwork said the truck was carrying storage containers. CBP said during a “non-intrusive inspection scan,” officers noticed anomalies, which led them to perform a more thorough search.

Nagra was charged with possessing with the intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana and importation of marijuana into the U.S. The charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life imprisonment if he is convicted, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy said Thursday’s bust was the third of its kind in as many weeks at the international border.