The following information was posted by Chris Gambon, and is provided by the Office of United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz:
The owner of a Tewksbury service station was charged June 26 with scheming to extort other service station owners who wanted to obtain a license to conduct motor vehicle safety inspections, according to a release from United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz.
Simon Abou Raad, 50, of Tyngsboro, was charged in U.S. District Court with:
- Conspiracy to extort money under color of official right in exchange for an official license to conduct Massachusetts motor vehicle safety inspections.
- Participating in a scheme to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
Involved in the scheme and charged along with Abou Raad were Mark C. LaFrance, 51, of Braintree, and David P. Gaw, 70, of Wakefield.
LaFrance is project manager for vehicle safety and compliance services at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, and had oversight responsibilities for the entire motor vehicle inspection program within Massachusetts, according to the release.
Gaw was a senior inspector working out of Lawrence whose duties included inspecting service stations applying for licenses, according to the release.
The three allegedly created a black market for licenses to perform safety inspections, using LaFrance’s and Gaw’s official positions.
LaFrance allegedly provided Abou Raad with a list of inspection stations that either had a low volume of inspections or were planning to surrender their license and sell the inspection equipment, according to the release.
Abou Raad would then contact the service station owner and offer to buy the inspection license and equipment for prices usually in the range of $5,000 to $6,000, and then sell the licenses and equipment to service station owners looking to acquire a license, often identified by Gaw, for prices between $50,000 to $75,000, according to the release.
Abou Raad would then submit forged documentation to the RMV, making the transaction 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, according to the release.
LaFrance would allegedly approve the issuing of a new license or permit others in the RMV to approve the new license, according to the release.
When the fraudulent transaction was complete and payment was made to Abou Raad, he would split the illegal proceeds with LaFrance and would pay Gaw a kickback as a finder’s fee if Gaw had supplied the buyer or conducted a site inspection for the new owner, according to the release
According to the release, electronic communications between Abou Raad and Gaw were intercepted during the investigation, and the two discussed service station owners who were likely to sell their inspection machine and license.
In one particular transaction where Gaw located the potential buyer, Gaw was intercepted asking Abou Raad, “how much you got for me?” and Abou Raad responded, “two grand," according to the release
The maximum sentence under the extortion and mail fraud statutes is 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss, whichever is greater, three years supervised release, restitution, and forfeiture, according to the release.