Crooked Car Transporter Takes Granny's Honda Hostage

Here's how she beat the racket.

When he books his own jobs, the trucker says, he charges customers only a $100 deposit and collects the balance when the car is delivered. When he was screwed over by Sclafani, did he ever consider keeping a car hostage? "No," he says. "Why would I do that, when my complaint is with him?"

Sclafani ducks the blows from his customers by assuming different identities. He tells callers or visitors that "Greg" is out and that they are speaking to "John." If others ask for "John," he appears to have stepped out, too.

But "John," according to the case files, has been known to take an even tougher line than "Greg" with oldsters whose health may literally depend on their getting their cars delivered on schedule.

Florence Katz
C.S. Muncy
Florence Katz
Sclafani's Bayville office
Steven Thrasher
Sclafani's Bayville office

Florence Katz's troubles with Sclafani started in typical fashion. Around New Year's, she planned her annual sojourn in Florida, where she rents an apartment for a couple of months near a friend in Coconut Creek, a town north of Fort Lauderdale that is home to the world's largest butterfly aviary. Katz let her fingers do the walking and called Sclafani about moving her car.

Sclafani told her, she says, that he "had a truck heading to Florida in a couple days" and that "there were only two spots left." To get onboard, she says, he told her she had better give him a deposit right away by telling him her checking account number.

"A lot of older consumers don't realize the dangers of paying directly from their bank account," says a spokesman for the AG's Office. "With a debit card or a credit card, you can call your bank and have them reverse a fraudulent charge. Not so with a bank payment."

ABK advertises that it takes credit cards, but many people have sworn that the company gives them one reason or another why it can't process credit-card payments the day they sign contracts. So, they are told to give their checking account number.

After being quoted a price of $630, Katz signed a contract with Sclafani. But even taking the full payment of $630 from Katz wasn't enough. Though she'd made no return plans, Sclafani helped himself to another $630 for that not-yet-scheduled trip back to New York, documents show. He also took another $630, for no known reason. All told, he took $1,890 from a widowed nurse on a fixed income.

Katz's car actually arrived in Florida without incident. But her problems were just beginning.

As Katz was ultimately to learn, Sclafani apparently failed to pay the trucker who had hauled the car to Florida. Another thing she didn't know at the time was how much he had overcharged her. Finally, she wasn't aware that he was already in deep trouble with AG Cuomo's office for swindling hundreds of other New Yorkers.

Sclafani had already been featured on Arnold Diaz's "Shame, Shame, Shame!" Fox 5 consumer-help segment twice—once as "A Blue Knight," and once as "A Eastern Connection."

If the absence of an "n" between "A" and "Eastern" wasn't enough cause for concern about the business, the presence of an "F" should be: With 285 complaints against it, that was ABK's rating from the Better Business Bureau—until it was downgraded a couple months ago from "F" to "Not Rated" and booted from the BBB entirely.

In March 2009, after receiving hundreds of complaints, Cuomo's office had begun to investigate Sclafani. By the time the AG formally filed a complaint on November 23 against Sclafani, his wife, and their variously named companies, alleging fraud and asking for restitution and damages, some 400 New Yorkers had come forward with allegations that they had been bilked.

A short time later, Nassau County Supreme Court Judge Bruce Cozzens issued the consent order and judgment. The Sclafanis had to pay $60,000 in restitution to customers and $65,000 in fees to the state, and they had to put up a $200,000 performance bond for possible future infractions.

Among other things, the Sclafanis were ordered to stop promising that vehicles would be delivered on specific dates and to stop double-dipping into their clients' bank accounts.

No chance. After Cuomo's office issued a press release this past February, announcing the court order because of "multiple fraudulent acts" and asking other customers who believed they also were ripped off by Sclafani to come forward, new complaints poured in.

Meanwhile, Katz ended her sojourn in Florida and flew back to New York. Her car was to follow, but the day her car was to be delivered to her by Sclafani's outfit came and went. A few more days went by. No car.

In mid-March, she spoke with Greg (or John), who was exceedingly polite to her: "He always spoke nicely. He kept telling me the car was coming, that it would just be a couple more days," she says.

Eventually, says Katz, Sclafani's wife started saying he wasn't in the office. Then ABK stopped answering its phone altogether.

Another week went by. Not knowing where else to turn, Katz called her local police precinct in Queens. A case like this immediately brings up jurisdictional headaches: She lives in New York City, Sclafani's company is in Nassau County, and her Honda was shipped from Florida. But a helpful Queens cop, in concert with police in Florida, tracked down her car.

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3 comments
jaydee0072000
jaydee0072000

I know this is old as well but I had to comment.


I know this douche bag, I hauled a car from California to NY for him on Central Dispatch and he falsely advertised COD when in fact it was a bill. So before I delivered the car in NY I went directly to his office in Long Island before passing go to pick up my money. He's a con artist and had no intentions on paying me, and lied about the COD after I picked up the car. And I attest, he did have a magnetic lock on his door...coward!


At that time he was called Autotrail Transporters. His scam was to con people out of their money by offering cut throat rates for moving their cars, but they were unaware he had NO trucks. Also, most of his loads were never picked up because of his low rates to transporters so they either never were picked up, or once picked up held hostage by drivers/companies because they were suppose to be COD's and weren't.

Carmover
Carmover

I know this story is 3 years old but I HAD to comment as the Sclafani's are still conning people out of money, they just moved their operations base somewhere else. As someone who has been on the actual trucking end of the auto transport industry for 20+ years and dealt with Greg & Marguite for years, I know how they work. As consumers we all want to price shop and look for the best deal. When it comes to shipping your car though, a broker doesn't have as much of a vested interest in transporting your car. The goal of many brokers is to get your deposit (also called a "booking fee") because once you see the fine print, most will see that money is not refundable and dates are not guaranteed.


Brokers can offer very cheap prices for the following reasons:

They do not have to pay: truck payments, fuel, heavy road use taxes, maintenance, Quarterly fuel taxes, KYU, drivers, DOT, overweight citations, and on and on.


How does a Broker work?:

Many can work right out of their living room and just pay for an 800 # and a Bond in case they don't pay the trucking company. You might make the mistake of filling out a form online as it looks like a quote request form for a trucking company. Instead, you all of a sudden are bombarded by between 10 & 25 hard core sales people all begging for your business and they will not leave you alone. They will offer a very low price to entice you. IF you book with the low priced broker, he/she may ask for a deposit. Either way, they list your car on an internet load board for less than quoted to you and either the car ends up sitting and the broker won't return your calls, or they call you and tell you they need to charge you more because no one wants to move the car or worse yet, they contract your car to a carrier for a larger price and you are in shock when the truck arrives and they don't want to give you the car unless you pay $200 more than your agreement. The sad part is that the truck driver is stuck in the middle. You can yell & scream & toss your contract in his/her face but if you don't pay what he says you owe, the driver eats it. He either owns his truck and has lost revenue or if it is a company driver, his dispatcher will deduct it from his pay and it isn't their fault you were lied to.


CONSUMERS: Arm Yourself With Information!!!  Research any company before you give them any personal or payment information. Do not just trust transport reviews website as many brokers are listed as carriers, they pay to be a "supporter" of the website to get preferential treatment and if you pay attention, some even compensate "clients" for their reviews!  Start with a review site to narrow down your choices, then use a search engine and look up the name of the company along with the word "complaints" and see what comes up. Many companies use similar names so if you have the city of location, use that in your search.


If I didn't "ramble on" so much, I could write a book of broker nightmare stories and how to book a transport with little stress. Automobiles can be quite an investment these days. Is transporting really where you want to bargain shop?


 
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