Barber brothers in Utah sentenced for establishing a dozen ‘chameleon’ carriers
January 8, 2019
Zach and Garret Barber, two brothers from Utah, were sentenced for violating an imminent hazard order and subsequently setting up other carriers illegally. The Utah men had established at least 12 puppet carriers using someone else’s name as an owner in an attempt to evade imminent hazard orders.
On Monday, Jan. 7, the Barber brothers were sentenced in a Utah U.S. District Court. Zach Barber received 37 months imprisonment and 36 months of supervised release, and he must pay restitution of more than $1.3 million. Garrett Barber received 36 months of probation.
In the indictment filed in September 2017, both men were charged on 36 counts, including conspiracy to commit fraud, false statements, aggravated identity theft and wire/mail fraud. Both brothers pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. The remaining 35 charges were dismissed.
The men were indicted after continuing operations of their trucking company despite an imminent hazard order they received in March 2012. Companies served with an imminent hazard order can bring themselves to compliance and be reinstated. However, the Barber brothers chose to conduct a scheme to evade enforcement.
In August 2006, Zach Barber established interstate carrier Factory Direct Foods, Pleasant Grove, Utah, with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Three years later, the company received an unsatisfactory safety rating following an FMCSA compliance review. Consequently, Factory Direct Foods was issued an out of service order.
Rather than bring Factory Direct Foods into compliance, Zach Barber ceased operations and opened a “chameleon carrier” under another previously opened interstate carrier called Reliable Transportation Services, according to court documents. This company is not associated in any way with the similarly named car carrier company based in Canton, Mich.
Despite requirements under FMCSA regulations, Zach Barber did not disclose ownership of Factory Direct Foods when registering Reliable Transportation Services.
In an attempt to keep Reliable Transportation’s safety scores satisfactory, Zach Barber assigned the company’s safety violations to other carriers, including one out of business, by submitting challenges to FMCSA’s DataQs system. Falsified documents were provided to prove the vehicle in question belonged to someone else. Between November 2010 and February 2012, at least 26 such challenges were submitted.
In March 2012, Reliable Transportation received an unsatisfactory safety rating after FMCSA conducted a compliance review that revealed “violations in every rating factor category, as well as involvement in numerous vehicle crashes,” the indictment states. Drivers for Reliable complained illegal transportation of hazardous material, including fraudulent bills of lading and removing hazard placards. Reliable Transportation was issued an imminent hazard order and a notice of claim for more than $220,000. That claim is still outstanding.
Upon receiving the hazard order, Zach Barber and his brother Garrett registered another trucking company with FMCSA called River Team Trucking. This time, the Barber brothers assigned someone else as the owner while designating themselves as authorized signers on the bank account. Someone else “owned” the company while the Barbers could continue writing themselves checks.
In 2013, the Barbers established yet another trucking company. To extend their empire of chameleon carriers, the brothers created a document with instructions to employees on how to set up and register new companies.
According to court documents, Zach Barber had a conversation with an insurance agent in September 2013 to ask if he could keep a policy active with just a trailer because he wanted to have 20 trucking companies ready to go in the event something happened to another. Essentially, the plan was to always have a chameleon carrier queued up after the government shut one down.
Starting January 2014 and continuing into March 2017, trucks owned by the Barbers under a variety of names were involved in several crashes and committed numerous violations ranging from wrong motor carrier information displayed on the truck to driving beyond the hours of service.
By the time the brothers were caught, they had opened at least a dozen trucking-related companies. Other people were falsely listed as owners on the paperwork.