A Miami man has been sentenced to prison for orchestrating a scheme to defraud thousands of customers through moving companies located across the country.
On December 20, 2022, Serghei Verlan, 39, was sentenced to 72 months in prison in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, Ohio. He pleaded guilty in August 2022 to charges related to racketeering conspiracy.
Verlan is described as one of the two leaders of a criminal enterprise that “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,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio.
Authorities say that the scheme involved moving companies located in Florida, Ohio, Maryland, North Carolina, Illinois, Texas, California, Connecticut, Colorado, and Missouri. More than 1000 people have been identified as victims.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office describes the scheme:
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 is also accused of paying employees to write fake positive reviews to improve the public image of the various companies. Further, he was “directly responsible for furthering the conspiracy by “reincarnating” affiliated companies into “new” companies controlled by the enterprise through false statements to federal regulators,” authorities say.
The other co-leader in the conspiracy, Andrey Shuklin, 34, of Miami, Florida, was sentenced last May to 78 months in prison.