Owner of New Jersey moving companies pleads guilty to fraud conspiracy
June 15, 2018
A New Jersey moving company owner has pleaded guilty to fraud charges in connection with a scheme that federal investigators said involved holding customers’ household goods hostage after demanding a fee higher than quoted.
Maximo Beras of Kearney, N.J., who court records indicate also used the alias Charles Goico, entered guilty pleas to one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 13 at U.S. District Court of New Jersey.
According to a Department of Transportation news release, Beras’ businesses came to the attention of federal authorities in 2012, following a series of complaints that his moving company was “engaged in a complex scheme to defraud and overcharge its customers.” The release states that the scheme began by opening business accounts for moving companies. Beras would provide low-cost estimates to customers but then hold the household goods hostage until customers agreed to pay higher fees.
Beras hid these actions by setting up chameleon companies. As soon as customers began to complain, Beras would shut down the company and resurrect it with a new company under a new name, according to the news release.
From September 2010 to June 2014, Beras also defrauded at least five different banks in what is known as check kiting. According to the complaint, check kiting is when individuals steal funds from several financial institutions by exploiting bank policies that permit funds deposited into business accounts by check to be immediately available.
Along with co-conspirators, Beras would open bank accounts and write checks from one account for deposit into another bank’s account, despite insufficient funds. Beras would then immediately withdraw funds knowing the check would bounce.
Court documents reveal that Beras deposited more than $420,000 in insufficient fund checks using approximately 27 different accounts at the various banks. The DOT news release calculates total losses at around $2.4 million.
Beras was charged for his role in the scheme in June 2016 and pleaded guilty on May 29.