Moving Company Owner Pleads Guilty in Massachusetts to Bait & Switch Scheme
On November 3, 2015, Louis Massaro, of Scottsdale, Arizona, and Pompano Beach, Florida, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court, Boston, Massachusetts to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and failure to give up possession of household goods (HHG). He operated a fraud scheme that defrauded 52 victims of over $112,000.
Massaro owned and operated Moving and Storage Inc., which did business as Neighbors Moving and Storage (NM&S). Although Massaro advertised NM&S as a mover of household goods, he operated as a broker of such services - taking jobs that would be passed on to other motor carriers - without disclosing that fact to the clients. One particular company that he passed contracts to was an interstate motor carrier of HHG based in Massachusetts.
From approximately August 2010 to October 2012, Massaro and his co-conspirators operated a "bait-and-switch" operation. NM&S would provide low-ball estimates to customers for moving their HHG. Massaro would falsely tell customers that upon payment of a deposit and a "binding" fee, the price would be guaranteed. The customers were never told that the actual move would be completed by another motor carrier.
After customers made the initial payments, Massaro and his co-conspirators would obtain additional money from customers in several ways. This included contacting them under the premise of a "quality assurance check" after the 7-day cancellation period had passed, informing them that there were more items to move than originally quoted, and raising the quoted price. This forced customers to choose between canceling the contract and losing their deposit fees, or paying the higher amount.
When co-conspirators arrived to conduct the move, the drivers would inform the customer that their goods weighed more than what was included in the binding quote, even in those instances where the price had already been increased during the "quality assurance check." At that point, the price of the move would increase by thousands of dollars - sometimes even doubling or tripling from the quoted estimate. Drivers were directed not to deliver any goods until all money was collected. When a customer refused to pay the inflated price, they were informed that their HHG would be placed in storage and they would have to pay before their goods would be delivered. They were also told that they would be billed an additional amount of money for storage fees and re-delivery, and if not paid, their goods would be sold at auction. Within a 26-month period, Massaro's criminal scheme created losses totaling $112,650 for victims.
This investigation was part of OIG's "Operation Boxed Up", which is a national investigative initiative to locate, identify, and prosecute interstate household goods movers who are defrauding consumers. We are conducting this investigation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigations, and the U.S. Department of Labor - Office of Inspector General, with assistance from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.