(STL.News) – A Passaic County, New Jersey, man was sentenced today to 60 months in prison for leading a conspiracy involving numerous moving companies that systematically extorted hundreds of customers, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Richard Bishara, 43, of Woodland Park, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Judge Wigenton imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Bishara and his conspirators jointly operated numerous moving companies that quoted customers “low-ball” price estimates for household goods moves and then raised prices on the date of the move after the goods were loaded and the customers were vulnerable. Through this scheme, Bishara and his conspirators, over a number of years and hundreds of moves, raised final prices for moves above the allowed increase from initial estimates as provided by federal regulations, including increases as high as 400 percent on the day of the move. The collective difference between the many estimates and the final balances for the customers’ moves was more than $1 million. Bishara personally owned a number of the moving companies involved, and, as a leader of the conspiracy, controlled certain bank accounts used by the companies.
Judge Wigenton also sentenced Bishara to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay restitution of $72,709.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the Department of Transportation-Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Douglas Shoemaker, Northeast Region; postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge James Buthorn, Newark Division; and special agents of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Angel Melendez, New York Field Office, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Macurdy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.