Louis Massaro of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Pompano Beach, Fla., pleaded guilty in Massachusetts to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and failure to give up possession of HHG. He operated a fraud scheme that defrauded 52 victims of more than $112,000, according to the Inspector General’s Office of the Department of Transportation.
Massaro owned and operated Moving and Storage Inc., which did business and Neighbors Moving & Storage. Although Massaro advertised NM&S as a mover of household goods, he operated as a broker of these services, taking jobs that would be passed on to other motor carriers, without disclosing that to the clients.
From approximately August 2010 to October 2012, Massaro and his co-conspirators operated a “bait-and-switch” operation. NM&S would provide low-ball estimates to customers for moving their HHG, and Massaro would tell customers that upon payment of a deposit and a binding fee, the price would be guaranteed. The customers were never told the move would be completed by another motor carrier, according to the inspector general’s office.
After customers made the initial payments, Massaro would obtain additional money by contacting customers under the premise of a quality assurance check after the 7-day cancellation period had passed, informing them that there were more items to move than originally quoted, and raising the quoted price. Customers could then choose between canceling the contract and losing their deposit fees, or paying the higher amount, prosecutors say.
Additionally, when the company arrived for the move, the drivers would tell the customers that their goods weighed more than what was included in the binding quote, even in instances where the price had already been increased, which would increase the cost of the move by thousands of dollars. Drivers were also told not to deliver goods until all the money was collected.
If a customer refused to pay, they were told their possessions would be placed in a storage unit, and they would have to pay before getting it delivered in addition to having to pay more money for storage fees and re-delivery. If all of this wasn’t paid, their goods would be sold at auction, the Inspector General says.