Crooked Car Transporter Takes Granny's Honda Hostage

Here's how she beat the racket.

Cleffi, she says, called her at one point to say, "Why the hell are you having everyone call me? I don't need this!" She then got a paralegal friend to have a lawyer write a letter on their behalf, threatening to sue. She even tried to broker an agreement between A Blue Knight and Ajaco, trying to arrange for Sclafani to pay Cleffi the money he owed him. But nothing worked.

By the end of April, after six weeks of this hassle, Marie and her husband, John, made a decision: They were going to drive to East Hanover, call 9-1-1, and report the car stolen. They were about to leave on that trip, just the two of them, she says, when her husband stopped her and asked, "But who's going to drive Florence's car?" The Bilellos had adopted Katz's problem along the way and decided they couldn't try to retrieve their car in good conscience without rescuing hers, too.

Marie says John was hesitant to take his own mother, or Katz, along for the ride, afraid that things could get ugly. But when they called Katz about it, she immediately asked, "Can I come along?" They arranged to pick her up the next day in Queens for the trip to Jersey.

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

The confrontation came sooner than anyone predicted, but the trip they imagined didn't happen. When Cleffi got word that his insurer had been contacted by a lawyer, he called up Marie. She says he started screaming at her. As she recalls it: "He told me, 'Now I'm going to send both cars back to Florida. I'll slap a lien on them down there for nonpayment, and you'll never see them again!'" The phone call ended, she says, with her husband getting on the line and the two men screaming at each other until Cleffi hung up.

The Bilellos and Katz cooled it, and the next day, they called the New Jersey Attorney General's Office of Consumer Affairs, which called Ajaco. Cleffi never responded to repeated inquiries from the Voice, and the Jersey AG's office will not say what exactly was discussed on the phone. But that same day, Cleffi called up Marie Bilello and said, "The two cars will be by the side of the road, with the keys in the visors."

Fearful of the cars being stolen or of Cleffi changing his mind, Marie and John scooped up Marilyn and set out immediately. They called Katz and told her they didn't have time to come to Queens first, but they'd retrieve her car and drive it to her.

When they arrived in East Hanover, they stopped at the police department and asked for an escort. The cops, located just a few blocks from Ajaco's yard, admitted they knew Cleffi and declined to escort them, but said they'd "observe" from the end of the block, in case anything got out of hand.

When the Bilellos arrived at Ajaco, the two Hondas were there outside—along with "seven huge men who looked like the cast of The Sopranos," says Marie, adding, "My husband is a pretty big guy, so I wasn't scared. But it was weird, how they were staring us down the whole time, in silence." (Is there a mob angle here? The AG's Office says it doesn't know of one.)

Inside each car was a photocopy of a $1,400 check Ajaco had received from A Blue Knight that had bounced. Cleffi or someone else at Ajaco took a last shot at the old ladies, scrawling on the copies: "THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME NOT GET PAID!"

Marilyn drove straight home to Long Island, while Marie followed her husband as he drove the other car to Flushing, where they reunited a beaming Florence with her Honda and everything in it. Nothing had been stolen. "What wonderful people!" says Katz. Marie called to follow up with Sclafani about the extra money owed to her mother-in-law. He sent a money order and said the overcharge was "just a computer mistake." Marie recalls saying to him: "Funny, the exact same mistake happened to Florence Katz! What a coincidence, huh?"

According to a spokesman, the New York AG's Office can't just peremptorily shut down a business—it first has to go to court to sue for restitution. Now, however, the AG is suing Sclafani for contempt of the court order. It turns out that Cuomo also got stiffed: The AG's Office is claiming in court documents that Sclafani still owes $135,000 to the state.

Should Sclafani and his wife not voluntarily get out of the "auto transport business," Cuomo says, they should be jailed until they do so. Given how they've responded to court orders so far, the Attorney General's Office says in its paperwork that it wants to "permanently enjoin [them] from engaging in any retail or wholesale business in the State of New York."

Inspired by Florence Katz and the Bilellos, I was ready to do my own jousting with A Blue Knight. So I went to Long Island to get Greg Sclafani's side of the story. There were two addresses listed in business and court records. The first was in Syosset, a sleepy suburb on the LIRR. But on Ira Road, where A Blue Knight was supposed to be, there was only a tawdry strip mall. Flagging down a U.S. Postal Service mailman, I asked if he'd heard of a company called A Blue Knight, which was supposed to be located at No. 57.

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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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