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Truckers: Beware “The Bernie Madoffs of Tires”

TORONTO — When todaystrucking.com phoned a company called Canstruct Inc., on Friday morning, nobody answered. Not only that, but none of the extensions listed on the company’s website worked. And after our reporter hit “pound to hear more options” the line went dead.

Todaystrucking.com was trying to reach the Dorval-based Canstruct for an explanation of why they’re being investigated by the FBI.

Canstruct, AYA Distributors, and 3733581 Canada Inc., were all named in a scam warning that the Toronto Trucking Association (TTA) sent out to members last week.

“They are operating a very sophisticated scam that you don't want to get caught in,” TTA Executive Director Connie Burbridge wrote.

The FBI started investigating the companies after building-supply manufacturers, construction companies and tire dealers across North America complained that Canstruct ordered materials, sent trucks around to pick them up and after the loaded trucks left the shippers, they were never heard from again.

According to the President of the National Lumber & Building Material Dealers President NLBMDA Michael O’Brien, at least 50 of his member dealers were contacted and some lost up to $200,000 worth of supplies.

Barry Steinberg owns Direct Tire & Auto Service in Watertown, Mass. He’s been in the tire business for almost 40 years and told todaystrucking.com in a phone interview that he’s never seen anything quite like it.

“They’re thieves and they’re very good at what they do,” he said. “They’re the Bernie Madoffs of the tire business.”

Steinberg admits to being tricked by the company on one transaction. Upon reflection, he said he should have become suspicious when the company called him from Montreal to order tires.

“There’re a thousand tire dealers between me and Montreal. I should have asked ‘Why me? Why are they ordering tires from me?’”

He said Canstruct presented him with references, an excellent Dun & Bradstreet report and even the name of a banker to call in case he had concerns.

Turns out the D&B report had been stolen from a legitimate company and the banker was a fake.

He also said he knew of one tire dealer in Mississippi who agreed to a delivery of more than $150,000 worth of tires. A Canadian carrier picked up the load but en route home, the driver spotted a story about Steinberg and the scam in a truck stop, called the tire manufacturer, asked if he had been paid for the tires, and when the tire builder said no, the trucker turned around and brought them back to the factory.

“It was almost a miracle,” Steinberg said, adding, “he saved the tire company around $150,000.”

If you have any information or questions about the scam, you can call the Albany NY office of the FBI at (518) 465-7551.

Steinberg also said if any todaystrucking.com readers need more information, they can contact him at (617) 710-1000.

He added that they’d be welcome to buy tires from him too, with one proviso: “Tell them it’s gonna have to be C.O.D.”

 
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