Two Florida business owners were indicted on charges related to a fraud scheme that allowed them to collect more than $12 million.
Matthew Pardi and Ashley Lynn Hars allegedly created a series of fake moving companies, often stealing the identity of real businesses. Additionally, they would inflate their record with fake 5-star reviews and dubious claims.
According to the Department of Justice, the duo would increase their prices right before the move was initiated and during the process, forcing families to pay more money. If the customer did not provide the funds, Pardi and Hard would refuse to return their property
“With spring right around the corner and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still lingering, many Americans will be boxing up their belongings and moving to a new home that better suits their changed lifestyle,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “During what is typically a very stressful transition, consumers need to be able to rely upon the trustworthiness of the companies they hire to safeguard their valuables and transport them to their destination. We will continue to do everything we can to protect the public from fraudsters who employ illegal, extortionate tactics.”
If convicted, the two could face a maximum possible sentence of more than 300 years in prison and up to $6.25 million in fines.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation offered advice to individuals to avoid similar fraud schemes:
“Fraudsters can try to use multiple aliases behind which to hide their fraud, and various ways by which to manipulate public reviews, so as to fool even people who were doing their due diligence,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Jacqueline Maguire. “The bottom line is, together with our law enforcement partners, the FBI will still find you. And as we do our work to bring the criminals to justice, we remind the public that research and awareness are still the best forms of protection. Before contracting with a moving company, be sure to search reviews, seek recommendations from those you trust, and obtain bids from multiple sources.”
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