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Financial Crimes

28 charged in money-transfer scam, bilked trucking companies out of $1.7 million

CLEVELAND – Twenty-eight individuals have been charged in a 97-count indictment after allegedly stealing $1.7 million from American trucking companies in a sophisticated money-wiring scheme. The indictment follows a two-year probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

The 97-count indictment charged the 28 with violations including conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering for their roles in a scheme that skimmed more than $1.7 million from trucking companies, announced U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach, Northern District of Ohio, and William Hayes, acting special agent in charge of HSI Detroit.

"Criminal enterprises are constantly coming up with new ways to rip off companies, consumers and customers," said Dettelbach. "This group tried to turn truck stops into their own personal ATMs. We will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement to stamp out these schemes."

"This criminal organization is alleged to have significantly defrauded American trucking companies engaged in legitimate commerce," said Hayes. "This type of illegal activity can result in higher costs passed on to the consumer."

The indictment charges that the defendants fraudulently obtained account numbers and codes used by independent trucking companies to wire money to the companies' drivers from February 2011 through November 2012. They accomplished the objectives of the conspiracy and wire fraud as set forth below:

Electronic fund processing companies (EFP) such as Fleet One, Comdata and TCH are used by trucking companies to electronically transfer funds to truck drivers at truck stops and other locations throughout the country. Drivers typically obtain the money by providing information to a customer service representative at a participating truck stop. That information is then relayed via wire to an EFP processing center. Once the EFP has authorized the request for money, the truck stop will issue a check to the driver who then cashes it.

From the above period of time, known and unknown individuals obtained account numbers and codes used by trucking companies to issue checks through EFPs. These account numbers and codes were obtained without the knowledge or consent of the trucking companies. The known and unknown individuals then provided the stolen account numbers and codes via telephone calls or text messages to the defendants, according to the indictment.

The defendants traveled to truck stops in the Northern District of Ohio and elsewhere. Once at the truck stops, they posed as truck drivers, approached customer service counters, presented the stolen account numbers and codes, and requested checks from EFPs such as Comdata, Fleet One and TCH, according to the indictment.

Customer service representatives at the truck stops then processed the requests by sending the account numbers and codes via wire to EFP processing centers located outside the Northern District of Ohio. The EFPs then authorized the requests and authorized the truck stop customer service representatives, via wire, to print checks for the defendants. They then endorsed the checks and cashed them at the truck stops, according to the indictment.

In total, the defendants fraudulently obtained a gross amount of more than $1.7 million, according to the indictment.

From about February 2011, and continuing to on or about November 2012, the defendants conspired to launder money by transferring the proceeds of this scheme overseas and then back to the United States, according to the indictment.

If convicted, the defendants' sentences will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case, including each of the defendant's prior criminal record, if any, the defendant's role in the offense and the characteristics of the violations. In all cases, the sentences will not exceed the statutory maximum and, in most cases, it will be less than the maximum.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.