Registry of Motor Vehicles project manager arrested in safety inspection license scam

A project manager at the state Registry of Motor Vehicles was arrested today on charges of scheming with a service station owner to extort money from other service station owners who had been seeking licenses to conduct state car safety inspections.

Mark C. LaFrance, 51, of Braintree, the project manager, and Simon Abou Raad, 50, of Tyngsborough, who owned stations in Tewksbury and Tyngsborough, were each charged with conspiracy under the federal Hobbs Act.

According to documents filed in federal court, LaFrance was project manager for the RMV’s Vehicle Safety and Compliance Service unit, and oversaw the motor vehicle inspection program in Massachusetts.

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LaFrance allegedly worked with Abou Raad in a scheme to profit from the sale of Registry safety inspection machines and licenses.

According to authorities, licenses for conducting vehicle inspections normally cost approximately $2,800 and are issued based on geographic locations and on a first-come, first-serve basis. However, a number of people were able to receive licenses immediately after paying $75,000 to Abou Raad, who distributed the proceeds to LaFrance and others.

LaFrance and Abou Raad face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the Hobbs Act conspiracy charge. Abou Raad is also charged with engaging in money laundering and faces up to 10 years in prison on that charge.