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Four Charged In Organized Crime Crackdown

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Plastic pallets the four suspects allegedly stole from industrial yards in southeast Michigan and then resold through legitimate and illegitimate businesses. (Courtesy: Michigan Attorney General)

Plastic pallets the four suspects allegedly stole from industrial yards in southeast Michigan and then resold through legitimate and illegitimate businesses. (Courtesy: Michigan Attorney General)

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LANSING (WWJ) - Four Michigan residents have been charged with multiple crimes in connection to an alleged organized crime operation targeting industrial areas of southeast Michigan, Attorney General Bill Schuette announced Friday.

The suspects — 52-year-old Damian Massa of Mason, 43-year-old James Tabor of Carleton, 40-year-old Zaklina Tabor of Carleton, and 40-year-old David Wendler of Monroe — face criminal charges for the alleged theft and subsequent selling of plastic pallets used in the state’s automotive industry.

It is alleged that the suspects were involved in a racketeering operation where plastic pallets, valued between $300 and $500 each, were stolen from industrial yards, and then fenced through legitimate and illegitimate businesses.


INTERVIEW: AIAG’s Jim Zamjahn talks with WWJ AutoBeat Reporter Jeff Gilbert.

The auto industry has been trying to crack down on the loss of those pallets–called plastic returnable containers–which is a problem that costs the industry millions of dollars a year.

“Containers, returnable containers have just not had the same level of visability that parts have had,” said Jim Zamjahn, program manager for the Auto Industry Action Group. “That’s starting to change.”

AIAG has been working with auto companies and their suppliers to find better ways of tracking the containers, and making sure they get back where they belong.

“A truckload of empty returnable containers has a significant assett value, but–again–it’s not tracked,” said Zamjahn.

The containers are built specifically to ship parts, and can be quite expensive. They are built to be re-used many times.

Zamjahn says the containers casual treatment in the past has made them a handy target for criminals.

“One of our member companies, a large supplier recently had a similar incident of theft,” he said. “Lost several hundred thousand dollars worth of containers. Made the point that if they lost ten thousand dollars worth of laptop computers, someone would have gone to jail or be fired at least.”

The charges are the result of an undercover operation conducted by the Livonia Police Department with assistance from the Michigan Attorney General’s Office and General Motors.

“By cracking down on crime and corruption, Michigan can once again be a safe, profitable place to do business,” Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a statement. “Our office is committed to partnering with local law enforcement to bring down criminal organizations wherever they operate.”

Schuette has filed the following 27 charges against the four defendants in Farmington Hills’ 47th District Court:

Damian Massa – Nine Charges

  • One count Controlling a Criminal Enterprise – a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine
  • One count Conducting a Criminal Enterprise – a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine
  • One count Conspiracy to Conduct a Criminal Enterprise – a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine
  • Three counts Attempt Stolen Property – Receiving and Concealing – a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison
  • One count Stolen Property – Receiving and Concealing – felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine
  • Two counts Taxes – Failure to File/False Return – a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine

James Tabor – Eight Charges

  • One count Controlling a Criminal Enterprise – a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine
  • One count Conducting a Criminal Enterprise – a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine
  • One count Conspiracy to Conduct a Criminal Enterprise – a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine
  • Three counts Attempt Stolen Property – Receiving and Concealing – a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison
  • One count Stolen Property – Receiving and Concealing – a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine
  • One count Taxes – Failure to File/False Return – a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine

Zaklina Tabor – Four Charges

  • One count Controlling a Criminal Enterprise – a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine
  • One count Conducting a Criminal Enterprise – a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine
  • One count Conspiracy to Conduct a Criminal Enterprise – a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine
  • One count Taxes – Failure to File/False Return – a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine

David Wendler – Six Charges

  • One count Conducting a Criminal Enterprise – a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine
  • One count Conspiracy to Conduct a Criminal Enterprise – a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine
  • Three counts Attempt Stolen Property – Receiving and Concealing – felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison
  • One count Stolen Property – Receiving and Concealing – felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine.

All four defendants are expected to surrender to authorities and are scheduled to be arraigned Friday July 6, in 47th District Court.

WWJ AutoBeat Reporter Jeff Gilbert contributed to this story.

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