The caller knew enough about the trucking industry to think he could lure a Mesa trucking company into sending him nearly $2,000 for nothing in a fraudulent shakedown scheme, playing to the company’s fears.
But in the end, his story didn’t add up, he didn’t get a dime of Jason Bates’ money, and Bates is hoping that the recorded telephone calls he turned over to police eventually will lead to the not-so-slick con man’s arrest.
Bates, of Cactus Leasing, has spent 21 years in the trucking industry. A red flag flashed in front of him almost immediately when the caller attempted to impersonate an officer with ADOT’s Compliance Division.
The caller claimed that one of Bates’ trucks had been involved in an accident and that Bates need to send him an electronic check to cover the costs of mechanical repairs. ADOT would not release the truck until the bill was paid for a mechanic’s services.
The story went that another truck had lost its load on a freeway and that one of Cactus Leasing’s trucks had run over some metal, damaging it. He provided numbers off the truck as proof.
But Bates realized that anyone who saw a truck would have access to the numbers. He knew ADOT’s job in regulating trucks does not include arranging for repairs. He also knew ADOT would never hold an expensive piece of equipment hostage.
Bates calmly kept the caller on hold while he determined that his only driver in the area was off-duty in Tucson and had not been involved in an accident. When he asked the caller for the truck’s Vehicle Identification Number, the caller quickly hung up.
“I said, I’ve been in the trucking business for 21 years. We never give checks to anyone but a driver.”
He said the caller “definitely knew something about the trucking industry,” but not enough to bilk him.
The caller claimed the driver kept two log books, a serious violation of federal law. What he did not know is that Cactus Leasing keeps an e-log book, which will soon be a federal requirement.
“This guy was trying to scare me, that my driver had two log books. We don’t run paper log books at all,” Bates said.
ADOT officials praised the actions of Bates as a savvy operations manager. They warned other trucking companies to be wary of the scheme and to call the Compliance Division if there are any questions.
“The truck company told us about it. We want to warn other trucking companies,” said Ryan Harding, an ADOT spokesman.
“An officer is not going to unilaterally call out a mechanic,” Harding said. “It would not have happened. The guy made up a story and tried to get some money out of them.”
Harding said the purpose of compliance officers includes the enforcement of weight limits and other safety regulations. He said they mostly work at ports of entry but will inspect trucks at other times as needed.
He said the fraudulent scheme that targeted Cactus Leasing remains under investigation.
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