Indictment filed charging 28 people with skimming more than $1.7 million from trucking companies
A 97-count indictment was filed charging 28 people 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, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and William Hayes, acting special agent in charge U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Detroit.
“Criminal enterprises are constantly coming up with new ways to rip off companies, consumers and customers,” Dettelbach said. “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 organization is alleged to have significantly defrauded American trucking companies engaged in legitimate commerce,” Hayers said. “This type of illegal activity can result in higher costs passed on to the consumer.”
Those indicted are: Dilshod Sidikov, aka “Dema”, 24, of Brooklyn, NY; Michael McPherson, 24, of Bronx, NY; Jamarl Gibbs, 29, of Albany, NY; Vernon Parker, 38, of Brooklyn, NY; Ahygia McDowell, 29, of Bronx, NY; Rashaad Forest, 32, of Bronx, NY; William Kelly, 30, of Bronx, NY; Jonas Belizaire, 32, of Bronx, NY; Liza Ortiz, 39, New York, NY; Victoria Alford, aka Victoria Kayeoni Alford, 43, Auburn, NY; Juan Pablo Estevez, 23, Stanton Island, NY; Gilbert Ortega, 38, of Brooklyn, NY; Sharone Lewis, 32, of Brooklyn, NY; Gerald Gomez, 24, of New York, NY; William Whitehead, 28, of Bronx, NY; Mario Flores, 56, of Bronx, NY; Ilya Trakhtenberg, 36, of Brooklyn, NY; Ashle Gardner, 25, of Brooklyn, NY; Paul Garrett, 46, of Bronx, NY; Chad Cook, 35, of Syracuse, NY; Ernest Gonzalez, 45, of Bronx, NY; Anthony Latief King, 42, of Bowie, MD; Johnathan Harris, 23, of Toledo, Ohio; Reginald Nottage, 48, of Brookyln, NY; Paul Grimes, 25, of Bronx, NY; Daniel Nieves, 25, of Bronx, NY; Igor Bekkerman, 41, of Denver, and Erna Kobrinsky, 42, of Hallandale Beach, FL.
Count 1 of the indictment charges the following defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud: Dilshod Sidikov, aka “Dema”; Michael McPherson; Jamarl Gibbs; Vernon Parker; Ahygia McDowell; Rashaad Forest; William Kelly; Jonas Belizaire; Liza Ortiz; Victoria Alford, aka Victoria Kayeoni Alford; Juan Pablo Estevez; Gilbert Ortega; Sharone Lewis; Gerald Gomez; William Whitehead; Mario Flores; Ilya Trakhtenberg; Ashle Gardner; Paul Garrett; Chad Cook; Ernest Gonzalez; Anthony Latief King; Johnathan Harris, Reginald Nottage, Paul Grimes, and Daniel Nieves.
Counts 2 through 96 of the indictment charges the following defendants with wire fraud: Vernon Parker; Ahygia McDowell; Rashaad Forest; Jonas Belizaire; Liza Ortiz; Victoria Alford, aka Victoria Kayeoni Alford; Juan Pablo Estevez; Gilbert Ortega; Sharone Lewis; Gerald Gomez; William Whitehead; Mario Flores; Ilya Trakhtenberg; Chad Cook; Ernest Gonzalez; and Johnathan Harris.
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. Most of the transactions took place at truck stops in Ohio, according to the indictment.
Count 97 of the indictment charges the following defendants with money laundering: Dilshod Sidikov, aka “Dema”; Ilya Trakhtenberg; Ahygia McDowell; Daniel Neives; Igor Bekkerman; and Erna Kobrinsky.
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 from bank accounts New York to Russia and Uzbekistan and then back again to bank accounts in New York, 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.
The investigation preceding the indictment was conducted by the Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The matter was presented to the grand jury and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David M. Toepfer.
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.