Arvaham Zano, a resident of South Florida, has been sentenced to eight years in federal prison for his involvement in a nationwide interstate moving fraud scheme. The scheme, which targeted clients seeking moving services, involved inflating the costs of interstate moves and then failing to deliver the clients’ belongings as promised. Zano operated two moving companies and acquired jobs through various moving brokers. With the items already loaded onto the truck, Zano would demand more money from clients, sometimes two to three times the original estimate. Those who refused risked losing their deposits and belongings. The victims’ household items have largely never been recovered. Zano’s co-defendant, Sofein Mlayah, was previously sentenced to 30 months in prison for his involvement in the scheme. The sentencing comes after Zano’s guilty plea to wire fraud, interstate transportation of stolen property, and failure to give up possession of household goods.
South Florida Resident Sentenced to Eight Years in Federal Prison for Nationwide Interstate Moving Fraud Scheme
Moving scams have become a prevalent issue across the nation, with unsuspecting individuals falling victim to fraudulent moving companies. Recently, a South Florida resident was sentenced to eight years in federal prison for his involvement in a nationwide interstate moving fraud scheme. This case highlights the severity of moving scams and the need for vigilant law enforcement to protect consumers.
Arvaham Zano, a 36-year-old resident of Hollywood, Florida, was sentenced to eight years in prison for wire fraud, interstate transportation of stolen property, and failure to give up possession of household goods. His co-defendant, Sofein Mlayah, 28, of North Miami Beach, was also sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in the scheme. Zano’s guilty plea unveiled a sophisticated operation that defrauded clients of their belongings and resulted in substantial financial losses.
In addition to his prison sentence, Zano was ordered to forfeit $334,499.73 and pay $2,877,497.35 in restitution. This restitution is joint and several with Mlayah, making them collectively responsible for repaying the victims of their fraudulent activities.
Restitution and Forfeiture
The substantial amount of restitution and forfeiture imposed on Zano reflects the magnitude of the financial losses suffered by the victims. It serves as a deterrent to other potential scammers and establishes the importance of making victims whole.
Mlayah, the co-defendant in this case, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his involvement in the scheme. This punishment emphasizes the accountability of all individuals involved in fraudulent activities, regardless of their role.
Zano’s fraudulent operation involved multiple companies and deceptive tactics to defraud clients. Understanding the intricate details of the scam highlights the need for consumer education and awareness.
Zano operated two companies, including Zano Moving and Storage, LLC. These companies served as a front for his fraudulent activities, allowing him to appear legitimate while carrying out his deceptive practices.
Inflating Costs of Moves
One of the key tactics used by Zano was inflating the costs of clients’ interstate moves. This allowed him to demand more money from clients once their belongings were already in his possession, placing them in a vulnerable position.
Taking Possession of Client Belongings
Once Zano had possession of clients’ belongings, he would refuse to deliver them without higher fees. This tactic effectively held clients’ belongings hostage, forcing them to either pay exorbitant amounts or risk losing their deposited funds and belongings altogether.
Abandoning Belongings at Self-Storage Facilities
In many cases, Zano abandoned clients’ belongings at undisclosed self-storage facilities throughout the nation. This resulted in the total loss of client property, as most of these items have never been recovered. The sheer scale of this operation underscores the devastating impact on the victims affected.
Role of Moving Brokers
Moving brokers played a crucial role in facilitating Zano’s fraudulent activities. Understanding their involvement sheds light on the responsibility of all parties involved in a moving transaction.
Negotiating Service Fees
Moving brokers would negotiate a moving service fee with the client, acting as intermediaries between the client and the fraudulent moving company. This made it easier for Zano to manipulate the costs and demand more money from clients once the items were loaded.
Subcontracting to Zano’s Companies
Once the moving brokers secured the moving job, they would subcontract it to one of Zano’s companies. This arrangement allowed Zano to maintain a veneer of legitimacy, with unsuspecting clients unaware of the fraudulent practices taking place behind the scenes.
Tactics Used by Zano and Mlayah
Zano and Mlayah employed various tactics to perpetrate their fraudulent scheme. Understanding these tactics will help consumers identify warning signs and protect themselves from falling victim to similar scams.
Demanding More Money for the Move
Zano and Mlayah would inform clients that they had more household items than originally estimated by the moving broker. With the items already loaded onto the moving truck, they would demand additional money to begin the move, often demanding two to three times more than the original estimate. This tactic placed clients in a difficult position, forcing them to pay inflated prices or risk losing their belongings.
Refusing to Start Loading without Higher Fees
In some instances, Zano and Mlayah would refuse to start loading the trucks until they received higher fees. This further added to the pressure on clients, as failure to comply would result in delays or potential loss of deposited funds and belongings.
Never Delivering the Items
One of the most devastating tactics employed by Zano and Mlayah was never delivering clients’ belongings. After loading the trucks, they would simply vanish, leaving clients without their possessions and facing significant financial losses. The significant number of unrecovered household items highlights the devastating impact of this fraudulent operation.
Charging Victims Bogus Storage Fees
In addition to the initial demands for more money, Zano and Mlayah would often charge victims bogus storage fees. This further drained clients’ financial resources and added insult to injury, as they were already victims of a fraudulent moving operation.
Despite law enforcement’s best efforts, a significant number of household items remain unrecovered. This serves as a stark reminder of the long-lasting impact of moving scams and the challenges faced by victims in recovering their belongings.
Unrecovered Household Items
Most of the victims in this case have been unable to recover their household items. This underscores the need for continued efforts by law enforcement and consumer advocacy organizations to support and assist victims in their recovery.
Mlayah, the co-defendant in this case, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in the fraudulent scheme. This sentencing symbolizes the accountability of all individuals involved in such operations and serves as a deterrent for others who may consider engaging in similar activities.
Law Enforcement Agencies Involved
Multiple law enforcement agencies played a crucial role in investigating and prosecuting this case. Their collaboration underscores the commitment to protecting consumers from fraudulent activities.
U.S. Attorney’s Office
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida led the prosecution of this case, ensuring that justice was served for the victims affected by this fraudulent moving scheme.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, played a vital role in investigating this case. Their expertise and dedication were instrumental in uncovering the extent of the fraudulent activities and building a strong case against the perpetrators.
Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General
The Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (DOT-OIG), Southern Region, contributed to the investigation and prosecution of this fraudulent moving scheme. Their involvement highlights the importance of interagency collaboration in combatting complex fraud cases.
Sunny Isles Beach Police Department
The Sunny Isles Beach Police Department provided valuable assistance in this case, supporting the FBI and other agencies in their efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice. Local law enforcement’s involvement underscores the collective commitment to protecting the community from fraudulent activities.
For more information or assistance related to this case or moving fraud in general, please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. They can provide guidance and resources to victims and help prevent future fraudulent activities.
The sentencing of Arvaham Zano and Sofein Mlayah serves as a stark reminder of the prevalence and devastating impact of fraudulent moving operations. It highlights the need for consumer education, government intervention, and diligent law enforcement in addressing this issue. Moving scams can cause significant financial and emotional harm, and it is essential to remain vigilant and informed to protect ourselves from falling victim to these schemes.