A Great Neck man is among five people indicted for a bid-rigging scheme that lasted more than two decades, receiving more than $15 million from government services, according to the office of state Attorney General Letitia James.
A release from James’ office outlined that Great Neck resident Avraham Cohen, 60, had a role in submitting thousands of fraudulent bids for moving and storage services to the New York state Office of Victim Services and the New York City Human Resources Administration.
The government agencies required clients to submit three competitive bids to ensure they paid the lowest price for the services, according to the release. As a result, the five individuals fraudulently divided the market and inflated prices with the falsified bids they submitted to the agencies, according to the release.
From 2001 through the present, the individuals and their companies conducted more than 25,000 moving jobs for the two agencies, charging up to three times the fair market value, officials said. Cohen was reportedly the owner of Avi Moving & Trucking Inc.
Aside from Cohen, others who were indicted were Derek T. Barney, of New Jersey, Frank Lopez Jr. of Queens, Cynthia Yeje Ramsaroop of Florida, and Gennovee Yeje, of Florida. Four of the companies listed in the indictment – Prime Moving & Storage Inc., Avi Moving & Trucking Inc., Baya Inc., and Fastrac Processing LLC- were all based out of Queens, according to the report. Prime Moving & Trucking LLC was based out of Delaware.
The individuals formed a fake trade association called the “United Movers Association”, according to the release. Some of the individuals sent a false letter to the New York City Human Resources Association, explaining that their establishment was created to combat fraudulent acts, according to the release. Ironically, creating the United Movers Association allowed the individuals to submit false bids to the government agencies they claimed to be helping.
The five also operated another fraudulent organization called the “Office of Eviction Services”, which officials said fraudulently identified itself as a non-profit government organization aimed at aiding people in need of emergency relocation, according to the release. In 2016, Cohen allegedly sold the office to Yeje, where she and Ramsaroop remotely operated it from Florida.
An investigation into the individuals and their companies was conducted by James’ office and the state’s Department of Investigation. The indictment of the individuals and their alleged companies was announced on Wednesday.
“It is unconscionable that these individuals swindled programs that gave crime victims the chance to escape their dangerous situations,” James said in a statement. “Victims of crimes deserve every opportunity to get the help they need, but with financial gain in mind, the defendants took advantage of a system created to help those who needed it most.”
“Corruption has a real and tangible impact on city government and this investigation demonstrates its costly toll,” Department of Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett said in a statement. “Defrauding the very government programs meant to assist some of the most vulnerable in our city, in this case survivors of domestic violence and other crimes, as well as public benefit recipients.”
Cohen, as part of the 17-count indictment, was charged with grand larceny in the second degree, scheme to defraud in the first degree, conspiracy in the fourth degree, and contract, agreement, arrangement or combination in restraint of trade, according to the indictment.
Efforts to reach legal representation for further comment on the matter were unavailing.