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Former auto hauler sentenced to 30 months for faking FMCSA records

Ex-owner of CAT Inc. also ordered to pay restitution to Amazon in separate package-return scam

Auto hauler used fake DOT records to steal more than $400,000. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Former trucking company owner Michael Chaves was sentenced on Wednesday to 30 months in federal prison after pleading guilty last year to falsifying government records, aggravated identity theft, bank and wire fraud, and tax evasion.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island also ordered Chaves, 41, who had owned CAT Inc., an East Providence, Rhode Island, vehicle-transport carrier, to pay restitution to Amazon [NASDAQ: AMZN] for an alleged package return scam that bilked the company out of more than $640,000. The refund scam was discovered during the investigation of his trucking company.

Chaves used another person’s personal identifying information to continue to illegally operate a fleet of trucks after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ordered the business shutdown. He had been cited for allowing drivers to operate without a current or properly classified license; failing to maintain certifications that drivers were medically able to drive; failing to implement a driver alcohol or controlled substances testing program; and allowing drivers to exceed the maximum number of hours of driving allowed under the law, according to the indictment.

“Additionally, Chaves fraudulently obtained more than $400,000 from various financial institutions by employing schemes during which he obtained $332,000 in loans and funds from several banks and credit unions by providing fraudulent earning statements, tax returns, motor vehicle purchase contracts and Department of Motor Vehicle documents; caused the fraudulent wire transfer between financial institutions of $72,864.28; and executed a scheme by submitting 15 fraudulent checks he created to an automobile seller’s bank account from which he obtained $64,453,” prosecutors stated.

Chaves also attempted to evade paying income taxes, prosecutors noted, by commingling business and personal expenses; creating fraudulent third-party checks and cashing them using a check casher rather than a bank; and maintaining approximately 15 different bank accounts using at least five different company names.

The Amazon return scam involved ordering products and then replacing the return with lesser-value items than the ones originally ordered.

In some cases, according to court documents, he would replace original items with those of similar weight, including a commercial truck tire. Instead of returning the tire, he sent back two pieces of wood in the Amazon box. Other examples include ordering a vehicle suspension ball joint and returning an oil filter wrench and a stabilizer bar link kit with dog treats.

He also ordered new parts — like ceramic brake pads and a fuel injector — but returned the heavily used parts instead, prosecutors said. 

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  1. Ricky Sleet

    And Yet The City of Muskegon Heights in Michigan are Allowed to Running a Motor vehicles Theft and Part out Ring with Economy Towing Parting people’s vehicles out Thu Economy Towing (same owener/ Jimmy Williams who has a previous Auto Theft Record) and Muskegon Heights Police are involved Stickering vehicle’s on private property so they can Steal Them I have Video proof but Nobody cares because police n city are involved

  2. Edward sinanyan

    I applied to a logistics and trucking company in Wilson n.c. took drug test and physical and passed it. When they hired me .the first few days was ok. After that they sent me out and refused to send me home as agreed in contract. I was on e logs and I kept my logs legal.but somehow they changed my logs. I ask about it and they said they corrected my driving hrs I told them it’s illegal to do so. So they said i do what i want when they want to. I was out 2 weeks w no bunk or motels .they refused to pay for any of it. I told them I’m going home to do my 34 hr retart and when they said go home.when I got 1 hr from home they reported the truck stolen. So had no money or any means to get home. I was intercepted and .had to get a ride from a driver and had a family member get me a bus ticket. They refused to pay earnings to me. Its named ray logistics llc in Wilson n.c. they refused my calls and block my texts and group chats. Need help w get my money and need them investigated and closed .I have bol.and f receipts.

    1. Eli

      Report to Labor department in NC. They take wage theft very seriously and will definitely go after that company. I am surprised how stupid this company is by not paying the earned wages, if they knew they would get their asses kicked by the labor department they wouldn’t be so stupid. Here are some links that can help you.

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.