A Tewksbury service station owner is facing federal charges after being arrested earlier this month in connection with an extortion plot.
Simon Abou Raad, 50, owns Simons Service Center, 1 Main St., as well as another servicd station in his hometown of Tyngsboro. He and Mark LaFrance of Braintree, a project manager with Vehicle Safety and Compliance Services at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, are accused of conspiring to extort other service station owners wanting to obtain a license to conduct motor vehicle safety inspections.
Both men are officially charged with "conspiracy to extort money under color of official right in exchange for an official license to conduct Massachusetts motor vehicle safety," according to information provided by the office of US Attorney Carmen Ortiz.
According to Ortiz, applications to obtain a license to conduct motor vehicle safety inspections are intended to be granted on a first-come, first-served basis Consideration is given to geographic location and license class. Class A light duty inspection licenses and equipment are said to come available on occasion and cost approximately $2,800.
It is alleged that a number of individuals paid as much as $75,000 to go to the front of the line for a license to do inspections. The money was allegedly given to Abou Raad, who then distributed it to LaFrance and others.
During FBI’s investigation, which involved the interception of electronic communications, LaFrance and Abou Raad are alleged to have discussed service station owners who were likely to sell their inspection machine and license. According to the affidavit, LaFrance and Abou Raad discussed the amount of money it would require to purchase the license and equipment from the license holders and for how much they could sell them. Calls intercepted also detailed how the transfer would appear legitimate in the RMV computer system.
Abou Raad and LaFrance each face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 if convicted on the extortion charges. Abou Raad is also charged alone with engaging in monetary transactions in funds derived from specified unlawful activity. He faces a maximum 10 years in prison, and a $250,000 fine on that charge.