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Mass RMV project manager charged with extortion by FBI

U.S. attorney’s office release
March 11, 2013

BOSTON—A Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) project manager and a service station owner have been charged with scheming to extort other service station owners wanting to obtain a license to conduct motor vehicle safety inspections.

Simon Abou Raad, 50, of Tyngsboro, and Mark C. LaFrance, 51, of Braintree, were arrested today after being 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. Charges were originally filed on March 8, 2013, and unsealed today.

According to the complaint affidavit, LaFrance, project manager for Vehicle Safety and Compliance Services at the RMV, has oversight responsibilities for the entire motor vehicle inspection program in Massachusetts. Abou Raad owns service stations in Tewksbury and Tyngsboro. In Massachusetts, applications to obtain a license to conduct motor vehicle safety inspections are intended to be granted on a first-come, first-served basis with consideration 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 have received inspection licenses immediately without regard to geographic location or community by paying up to $75,000 to Abou Raad, who distributes the proceeds from the scheme 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.

The maximum sentence under the extortion statute is 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and three years’ supervised release. Abou Raad is charged alone with engaging in monetary transactions in funds derived from specified unlawful activity. The maximum sentence under this statute is 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years’ supervised release.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Richard DesLauriers, 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.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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