NEWARK, N.J. – A New York man and a Passaic County, New Jersey, woman admitted that they participated in a scheme to defraud over 260 customers of their moving company out of more than $540,000, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.
Lior Atiyas (a/k/a “David Cohen”), 42, of Hewlett, New York, pleaded guilty by videoconference today before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Lola Larios (a/k/a “Michelle Jacobs”), 37, of Haledon, New Jersey, pleaded guilty by videoconference before Judge Cecchi on Nov. 19, 2020, to an information charging her with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From as early as January 2016 through January 2019, Atiyas devised a scheme to enrich himself and his moving company, which used several names to conceal its true identity, including Premier Relocations LLC, Metro Van Lines Inc., Astoria Motor Van Company, Lyon Moving, and Empire Move. Larios began working for the company in January 2018, and immediately joined in the conspiracy. Atiyas and Larios regularly extorted customers by quoting them “low-ball” price estimates for moving household goods. Once the customers’ goods were loaded onto the moving trucks, Premier’s employees, at the direction of Atiyas and Larios, or Atiyas and Larios themselves, would drastically raise the price of the move (often two or three times that of the quoted estimate), and then refuse to deliver the goods until the customers paid the increased price. The aggregate difference between the initial low-ball estimates and the revised inflated amounts charged to victims was $547,525.
Atiyas also admitted participating in a scheme whereby he generated fake paystubs and a fake employment confirmation letter in order for an uncharged conspirator to obtain Medicaid benefits. As a result of his role in the health care fraud conspiracy, Atiyas caused the submission of over $40,000 in fraudulent medical claims.
The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison, and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain to the defendants, or twice the gross pecuniary loss to the victims, whichever is greater. The charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison, and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain to the defendant, or twice the gross pecuniary loss to the victims, whichever is greater. Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for April 1, 2021.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents with the Department of Transportation, Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Douglas Shoemaker, Northeast Region, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert, with the investigation leading to the guilty pleas.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Amore of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Government Fraud Unit in Newark.