Trucking rap sheet: Carrier smuggles weed from Mexico, two sentenced for defrauding shippers

Activity in three trucking-related criminal cases involving a multi-state commercial driver’s license testing scheme, broker fraud and drug smuggling was recently announced by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General and media outlets.

An El Paso, Texas, trucking company owner was recently sentenced to more than 24 years in prison for his connection to a marijuana smuggling operation, according to a report by the El Paso Times.

David Lopez, 56, was convicted in January on one count each of conspiracy to possess over 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and possession of over 100 kilograms of marijuana. He was also fined $50,000 and ordered to forfeit proceeds and property from his smuggling operation, including $2.4 million, numerous tractor-trailers, personal vehicles and his home, the site reports.

Lopez’s drug operation reportedly ran from August 2001 through August 2015. He was accused of trafficking marijuana from El Paso to cities across the U.S. The newspaper reports Lopez had been the owner of Lopez Trucking Co., Triple S.S.S. Logistic, Evolution Rock Transport and other companies.

The El Paso Times also reports trucks driven by Lopez and other drivers were used to transport the drugs, and Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized more than 3,300 kilograms of marijuana connected to the operation.

A Florida man pleaded guilty May 24 to charges of conspiracy to cause the production of fraudulently obtained CDLs. Between approximately April 2014 and December 2016, Taras Chabanovych allegedly caused the issuance of genuine Florida CDLs to New York-based applicants who then exchanged them for New York CDLs.

OIG says for as much as $2,600 per referral, Chabanovych helped CDL applicants obtain documents establishing false Florida residency so they could take the Florida CDL exam. He also reportedly provided audio and video devices to applicants to supply CDL test answers.

Two former trucking company owner and a dispatcher have been sentenced for their roles in a conspiracy to defraud shipping brokers.

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Between October 2010 and February 2012, Melinda Campbell, co-owner of several trucking companies operating from Catts Auto Sales in Chavies, Ky., and Bryan Napier, a dispatcher for Catts Auto Sales, reportedly agreed with brokers to haul loads for a certain price, then demanded additional payments before delivery, essentially holding the freight hostage.

OIG says after brokers filed complaints, the pair organized new trucking companies and used aliases to continue their scheme.

Campbell was convicted in March on five counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act extortion. She was sentenced to 56 months in prison and 36 months of supervised release. Napier, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in June 2015, was sentenced to 33 months in prison and 12 months of supervised release.