CINCINNATI – A Miami man has been sentenced to 72 months in prison for conspiring in a racketeering enterprise to defraud individuals through moving companies located throughout the U.S.
Identified victims of the fraud lost more than $2.4 million, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio.
Serghei Verlan, 39, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati on Dec. 19.
“The criminal enterprise used a series of moving companies to exploit thousands of people across the country by demanding ransom for the personal possessions those people had entrusted the enterprise to transport,” the news release stated.
Verlan was one of 12 defendants indicted in July 2018 and was one of two leaders of the conspiracy.
Court documents show that the defendants operated and worked through at least 12 affiliated moving companies to enrich themselves by defrauding customers who hired them to move their household goods.
The enterprise executed their scheme through various moving companies in Florida, Ohio, Maryland, North Carolina, Illinois, Texas, California, Connecticut, Colorado and Missouri. More than 1,000 customers have been identified as victims.
One of the enterprise’s warehouses was in West Chester, Ohio, and some of the identified victims reside in the Southern District of Ohio.
As part of the conspiracy, the defendants would provide customers with low binding estimates to do their move, promising to beat their competitor’s prices. After the customers agreed to hire the moving companies, employees of the moving companies would load the customers’ goods onto the truck and then the price of the move would be bumped. Co-conspirators would use an inflated cubic footage for the price of moving the customers’ goods.
Verlan was one of the few defendants who knew the “actual” or “real” cubic footage for customers’ goods and instructed workers to charge customers based on the fraudulently inflated price. He told employees to cap the overcharge at 20 percent to keep customer complaints down.
Verlan also paid employees to write fake positive reviews of their various companies to manage their online image. He was also responsible for furthering the conspiracy by “reincarnating” affiliated companies into “new” companies controlled by the enterprise through false statements to federal regulators.
Verlan pleaded guilty in August 2022 to participating in the racketeering conspiracy.
The other leader of the conspiracy, Andrey Shuklin, 34, of Miami, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in May to 78 months in prison.
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