California CDL fraud scheme ends with 20 convictions

Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022:

20 convicted in Calif. CDL fraud scheme

U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced last week the completion of prosecutions of 20 defendants in a series of DMV corruption cases in which hundreds of fraudulently obtained commercial driver’s licenses were issued. The defendants were tried and charged in the Eastern District of California.

Charges against the defendants included:

  • Bribery of public officials
  • Identity fraud
  • Unauthorized access of computers
  • Conspiracies to commit those offenses

The defendants included DMV employees who took bribes, trucking school owners and affiliates who bribed them, and others who participated in the conspiracies, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney. The criminal activities charged in these cases took place throughout California, including the Central Valley, Los Angeles Basin, and as far north as Eureka.

A statement from the U.S. Attorney's office said defendants "helped put unqualified commercial drivers on the nation’s highways operating large commercial vehicles even though those drivers had not passed the necessary written and driving tests."

DMV employees are said to have accepted bribes to enter fraudulent test scores for applicants who had not even taken the tests or who could not pass them.

Various trucking schools in California allegedly looked for corrupt DMV employees they could bribe to help failing or unqualified students get their commercial licenses anyway. In total, hundreds of fraudulent commercial driver's license permits and licenses were issued as a part of these schemes, jeopardizing public safety, Talbert said.

Every defendant charged in the cases has now been convicted and sentenced, except for one who passed away prior to trial. Sentences ranged from six months of home confinement to five years in prison.

[Related: Fight double-brokering fraud: Attorney on elevating enforcement, ways to prevent]

HHG foreman sentenced for role in racketeering conspiracy

On Nov. 1, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio sentenced Akhliddin Kalonov to four years of probation and a $100 special assessment for his role in a racketeering conspiracy related to a moving company enterprise.

According to the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, in May 2022, Kalonov pleaded guilty in the case.

An investigation revealed that, from at least July 2016 until November 2017, Kalonov, along with other members of the enterprise, controlled several moving companies that defrauded, extorted, and stole customers’ household goods. After loading customers’ goods onto trucks, the moving company increased prices and held the goods hostage until customers paid the inflated prices.

The enterprise also charged customers for moving more cubic footage of household goods than the actual amount of the goods, and some customers’ loads were not delivered at all.

Love’s donates $1.5 million to United Way

Love’s Travel Stops contributed $1.5 million to the United Way of Central Oklahoma in 2022, including more than $650,000 raised by employees through the company’s annual campaign that takes place each October. Since 1999, Love’s has donated more than $9 million to the organization.

“Love’s corporate employees always look forward to the annual United Way campaign because it gives them the opportunity to give back to the community they are a part of,” said Shane Wharton, president of Love’s and chair elect, board of directors for United Way of Central Oklahoma. “The tremendous impact the United Way has is vital to the Greater Oklahoma City area, and it’s always great to see the numerous ways our team members are willing to help their fellow community members every year.”

For this year’s campaign, money was raised for the United Way of Central Oklahoma with the help of Love’s corporate employees who pledged funds and participated in virtual auctions and raffles, in addition to Love’s contributing a 50% match of all employee donations. Other components contributing to the total included vendor donations and donations earlier this year to the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma and Urban League.