Shasta County Auto Transport Broker Convicted
United States Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced today that Billy D. Southerland, 63, of Anderson, California, was convicted today of two felony counts of mail fraud and one felony count of wire fraud. The guilty verdict was returned by a federal court jury in Sacramento after a three week trial before United States District Judge Garland E. Burrell, Jr.
According to Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Stegman, who prosecuted the case, the evidence at trial showed that from at least March of 2002, through January of 2004, Southerland advertised his auto moving business Southerland Auto on the Internet, using website names such as MovingMyCar.com and many others, to people who needed to have their cars transported from one city to another. Customers would send money to the defendant believing that their vehicles would be picked up for a specified price within 7 to 10 days. Southerland would fail to perform within the stated days, and would engage in "bait and switch" tactics, by offering below market prices to lure potential customers to his business. After customers complained that their cars had not been moved, Southerland and his employees would tell the customers to pay more money to "upgrade" for express pickup priority service.
When customers attempted to cancel with Southerland, he would refuse to refund some or all of the customer's money, claiming it to be a "non-refundable deposit."
Southerland also engaged in tactics designed to prevent dissatisfied customers from complaining to the Better Business Bureau by threatening to charge an additional $200 above the "non-refundable $200 deposit" to customers who filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau.