Thursday, August 13, 2009

L.A. man sentenced for defrauding trucking companies of millions.

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — A 34-year-old Los Angeles man has been sentenced to almost five years in prison and tentatively ordered to pay $2.7 million in restitution for using a federal Web site to defraud trucking companies.

Viacheslav Berkovich was sentenced in District Court in Los Angeles for mail and computer fraud after he pleaded guilty last February.

In a plea agreement, Berkovich admitted to registering fake trucking brokerage companies at the Safety and Fitness Electronic Records System (SAFER) Web site of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, arranging for another trucking company to make shipments, and depositing payments but never paying for shipments made.

As an example of a fraudulent transaction cited by the U.S. Attorney’s office, in January 2008 Lakes and Berkovich accessed the Internet Truckstop “loadboard” and obtained information about a trucking load being brokered by Dallas-based Stevens Transport.

Using the name of Vega Trucking, one of the fictitious companies they had registered on the SAFER website, Lakes and Berkovich agreed with Stevens Transport to transport the load for $3,400.

Lakes and Berkovich then used the name of Barkfelt Transport, a fraudulent trucking brokerage, to double-broker the load by hiring victim RK Trucking to transport the load for $4,000. RK Trucking transported the load, but never got paid for its work. Lakes and Berkovich, however, received a $3,390 check in the mail from Stevens Transport.

Berkovich's partner, Nicholas Lakes, was sentenced to nearly six years in prison and fined $4 million in June. The U.S. government has already recovered $1.4 million from Lakes.

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