Chicago man charged in interstate shipping fraud

By Bill Dwyer For Chronicle Media

A Lithuanian national is accused of stealing more than $9.5 million in copper wire and other interstate freight shipments by posing as a shipping agent.

Aivaras Zigmantas, 39, was arrested June 5 and charged with six counts of wire fraud, five counts of bank fraud, and two counts of theft of interstate shipments. At his arraignment on Monday, June 10, he pleaded not guilty.

His federal indictment refers to other unnamed individuals who allegedly conspired with Zigmantas in the fraud scheme. Prosecutors allege that between March 2020 and September 2023, Zigmantas and others intended to steal “at least $13.5 million in goods,” and successfully stole goods valued at $9.5 milion, mostly commercial-grade copper, as well as a shipment of liquor. He also allegedly defrauded a bank out of $86,623.

At Zigmantas’ arraignment hearing, numerous motions were made under seal, and several documents were also filed with the court under seal. A status hearing is scheduled for Friday, June 21.

He faces up to 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud, and up to 10 years in prison on each theft count.

Zigmantas, who authorities say resided at times in Schaumburg, Chicago, and Fort Lauderdale, allegedly used at least 11 fake names to open bank accounts and set up fictitious companies to pass himself off as a representative of both legitimate and fictitious freight carriers and brokers transporting interstate shipments. After convincing carriers and brokers to release shipments to him, prosecutors say, “Zigmantas and others diverted the shipments from their intended destinations and stole the goods.”

In furthering his scheme, prosecutors said, Zigmantas also used aliases on fake drivers licenses and foreign passports to open bank accounts and UPS Store mailboxes, and created email addresses and websites in the names of fake individuals and business entities.

Zigmantas and others allegedly created fictitious carriers, including Best Global Express, Mato Trans, Martin Global, JRO Global, VD Transco, SMD Transco and DMFL Express, and obtained U.S. Department of Transportation and Motor Carrier numbers for the fictitious carriers.

When customers hired Zigmantas’ fake companies to haul their goods to a given destination, he and his co-conspirators allegedly diverted the shipments to other locations, where they were unloaded and stolen. In one case, copper cathode that was supposed to be shipped to El Paso, Texas was instead taken to a location in Elk Grove Village and unloaded, according to federal prosecutors.

Among the shipments that prosecutors say Zigmantas stole were copper rod shipments of $134,000, $159,000, $191,000 and $188,000, two copper cathode shipments of $400,000 each a copper cathode shipment of $200,000, and $30,000 in liquor.