Tuesday, September 26, 2023
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Trucking the Money Away …

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) - Transporta, supposedly a trucking company, was just a vehicle for a $6 million Ponzi scheme, a lender claims in Hennepin County Court. The company and its Denver and/or South Carolina-based owner, Michael Casazza claimed to have government contracts, but "Transporta LLC was not a real trucking company and had no government contracts," according to the complaint.

Plaintiffs Expert Financial Services says Casazza and his cohorts created bogus accounts receivable invoices to get the purportedly "secured" loans.

Expert says the scheme began with Grace Capital LLC, whose president and vice-president, Ijaz Anwar and Ralph Klein, duped investors into believing it was financing factored receivables for Transporta. Anwar and Klein derived "substantial income from the supposed profits," according to the complaint. Casazza eventually purchased a partnership in Grace by fabricating a $500,000 invoice on behalf of Transporta, and giving the money to Anwar and Klein to, the complaint states. Grace, Anwar and Klein are all named as defendants.

"As time went on, Grace Capital LLC was financing the accounts receivables of Transporta LLC by as much as $1,700,000 a week. This required bringing on additional unwitting investors into the scheme," according to the complaint.

In 2007, when Grace tried to get additional loans, one lender discovered that Transporta was a fraud and that payments from supposed "government entities" were actually wire transfers from Transporta's own accounts, according to the complaint. Eventually, Grace had to pay its lenders, and legal expenses, and therefore felt the need to scam more investors through Transporta, the complaint states.

Casazza concocted false documents and targeted Expert, telling it that Transporta "was a hauling company operating in the State of Colorado and party to a contract with Weld County, Colorado funded by a government program designed to support small and minority businesses," according to the complaint.

Casazza had associates pose as government agents during a meeting to help pull off the scam, Expert says.

In reality, Casazza planned to give 80 percent of the money to Grace Capital to be split by Anwar and Klein, and to keep 20 percent of it for himself and to pay Transporta's debts, Expert says.

Expert says it received fabricated invoices from Transporta weekly, which Casazza based on the amount of money he needed to repay invoices that were coming due, plus interest. Casazza also used the money to pay for his "two colossal homes and a Bentley automobile," according to the complaint.

Expert says it gave at least $5.5 million to Transporta, it says. But Expert says that in early 2009, Klein accidentally disclosed that Grace had been receiving 80 percent of every deposit that Expert sent to Transporta.

Expert says that based on loan agreements, Transporta owes it $7 million; it has not seen any of the money so far.

Expert demands damages for conspiracy, fraudulent inducement, unjust enrichment, conversion and breach of contract.

The defendants are Transporta LLC, Michael Casazza, Gail Casazza, Rafael Sergio Chi Gonzalez, Grace Capital LLC, Ralph P. Klein, Ralph P. Klein as trustee for the Ralph P. Klein Revocable Trust, Ijaz Anwar, Sharon L. Klein, and Sharon L. Klein as trustee for the Sharon L. Klein Revocable Trust.

Expert is represented by Bridget Sullivan with Gurstel, Staloch & Chargo of Golden Valley, Minn.

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