Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024:
One sentenced, three plead guilty in Louisiana staged-accident scheme
More legal action has recently occurred in the ongoing, widespread staged accident scheme that targeted trucking companies and their insurers in New Orleans.
On Dec. 13, Florence Randle, 72, of Gibson, Louisiana, was sentenced after previously pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud for her role in the case.
According to court records, Randle recruited and directed passengers to participate in staged automobile collisions with tractor-trailers on May 17, 2017, and June 6, 2017. The passengers in these collisions filed fraudulent lawsuits that falsely claimed the tractor-trailers were at fault. Randle and her co-conspirators coordinated with others, including attorney Patrick Keating, to arrange the staged collisions, according to a press release from U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans.
Randle was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay $63,508 in restitution and a mandatory special assessment fee of $100.
On Jan. 10, Dimitri Frazier, 31, of Westwego, Louisiana; Adonte Turner, 25, of New Orleans; and Tiffany Turner, 52, of New Orleans, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their roles in the case. The three guilty pleas bring the total in the case, dubbed “Operation Sideswipe,” to 47.
According to court documents, on Nov. 13, 2017, Frazier and the Turners intentionally struck a tractor-trailer in the area of I-10 near Paris Road in New Orleans, then made false police reports, filed fraudulent lawsuits, lied during deposition testimony and sought unnecessary medical treatment.
They each face up to five years in prison, up to three years of probation and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentencing is set for April 10.
Trucking group owners found guilty in financial fraud scheme
A federal jury convicted two owners of a Salt Lake City-based trucking conglomerate of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
The defendants owned a group of trucking companies named Salt Lake Trucking Group (SLTG). According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, the defendants and their coconspirators paid over $300,000 in bribes to FedEx Ground employees, which resulted in SLTG receiving $108 million from FedEx over a 10-year period.
At the time of the conspiracy, the defendants, Yevgeny Felix Tuchinsky, 63, of Salt Lake County, Utah, was also a resident of San Diego, California; Konstantin Mikhaylovich Tomilin, 54, also of Salt Lake County, was also a resident of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Tuchinsky and Tomilin owned and operated several trucking companies consolidated under SLTG.
At trial, the jury was presented with evidence that FedEx contracts with local trucking companies to haul FedEx packages in tractor-trailers. FedEx refers to these companies as contract service providers (CSPs). FedEx pays the CSPs by the mile. SLTG was among those local CSPs.
Beginning around 2009 and continuing to 2019, the defendants bribed FedEx employees in exchange for those employees providing more business to SLTG. Instead of competing fairly against other CSPs for FedEx business, SLTG bribed FedEx employees to obtain miles and money, the jury found. The bribes resulted in unearned FedEx business for over a decade.
Defendants and coconspirators also engaged in deceptive practices to conceal from FedEx that they were violating several FedEx policies and contractual provisions, and they bribed FedEx employees to help deceive FedEx and cover up their violations. These deceptive practices included creating shell companies and lying to FedEx about the true ownership of the companies, concealing that SLTG owned and operated the shell companies and that the shell companies shared the same owners, assets, trucks and employees.
Defendants and coconspirators also lied to FedEx about dozens of SLTG drivers’ qualifications. Further, defendants and coconspirators failed to honestly report accidents to FedEx. As established at trial, had FedEx known about SLTG’s bribery, true size, ownership, false driver applications and accidents, FedEx would have terminated SLTG and its subsidiaries as CSPs.
In addition to the $108 million benefit from FedEx to SLTG as a result of the bribery, Tuchinsky personally gained $7 million and Tomilin more than $4 million from the scheme.
Tuchinsky’s and Tomilin’s sentencing is scheduled for May 20, before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Robert J. Shelby at the United States District Courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City.
Ohio CDL examiner sentenced for submitting false test results
A former CDL examiner in Ohio was sentenced to a year of probation and a $100 special assessment on Jan. 17 after previously pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
According to the DOT Office of Inspector General, between February 2018 and February 2020, Shawn Martin submitted false CDL test results to the Ohio Department of Public Safety. Specifically, Martin submitted test results for applicants who either failed or never took the tests in exchange for payments.
The Ohio Department of Public Safety, Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), ultimately mailed the applicants fraudulent CDLs based on the falsified test results Martin submitted.