RMV Project Manager Sentenced for Extortion and Mail Fraud
|U.S. Attorney’s Office November 19, 2013|
BOSTON—A Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicle (RMV) project manager was sentenced today for scheming to extort other service station owners who wanted to obtain a license to conduct motor vehicle safety inspections.
Mark C. LaFrance, 51, of Braintree, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge George A. O’Toole to three years in prison, two years of supervised release, a $12,500 fine, and forfeiture of $50,000 in illegal proceeds. In August 2013, LaFrance pleaded guilty to mail fraud and conspiracy to extort money under color of official right.
LaFrance, project manager for Vehicle Safety and Compliance Services at the RMV, had oversight responsibilities for the entire motor vehicle inspection program within Massachusetts. His co-defendant, Simon Abou Raad, owned service stations in Tewksbury and Tyngsboro. In Massachusetts, applications to obtain a license to conduct motor vehicle safety inspections are intended to be granted off a waiting list with consideration given to geographic location. An applicant for a vehicle inspection license must pay a $100 fee, and the actual equipment costs about $2,500. Because the inspection network was at its capacity, the RMV was not granting new licenses off the waiting list.
LaFrance and Abou Raad operated what was essentially “a black market” for such licenses through the use of LaFrance’s official position. LaFrance provided to Abou Raad a list of vehicle inspection stations that had a low volume of inspections and/or were planning to surrender their license and sell the inspection equipment. Abou Raad contacted the service station owner and offered to buy the inspection license and equipment for prices usually in the range of $5,000 to $6,000. Abou Raad offered for sale such licenses and equipment to service station owners desirous of acquiring a license for prices between $50,000 to $75,000. Abou Raad then arranged the transaction to appear as if the service station owners selling and buying the license were merging as a new business entity or with a change in ownership. Although he was aware that these purported mergers were not bona fide, LaFrance either approved the issuing of a new license or permitted others in the RMV to approve the new license. After the fraudulent transaction was completed and payment was made to Abou Raad, he split the illegal proceeds with LaFrance. Through this illegal scheme, Abou Raad sold at least 10 inspection licenses and/or machines for approximately $657,000.
Abou Raad pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on December 12, 2013.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Vincent B. Lisi, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division, made the announcement today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys S. Theodore Merritt and Robert Fisher of Ortiz’s Public Corruption Unit.