In the months before a troubled truck driver allegedly plowed into a motorcycle procession of Marine veterans in New Hampshire, killing seven people in June 2019, his bosses at a Massachusetts trucking company were breaking federal safety rules, then falsifying records to conceal the violations, according to US prosecutors.
On Friday, the federal government revealed that a Massachusetts grand jury had indicted the trucking company’s leaders, a pair of brothers who live in West Springfield, marking the first criminal prosecution to arise from the tragedy outside New Hampshire, where the driver, Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 25, is awaiting trial.
The indictment alleges that Dunyadar Gasanov, 36, and his brother, Dartanyan Gasanov, 35, lied about how many hours they drove for their trucking business, Westfield Transport, to conceal instances during which they operated commercial trucks longer than allowed by federal regulations.
Dunyadar Gasanov, the company’s vice president, was also accused of instructing another employee to falsify driving logs and lying to federal investigators about the company’s practice of underreporting the number of hours they were driving.
Dunyadar Gasanov was being sought by law enforcement Friday, federal prosecutors said.
Dartanyan Gasanov, the company’s president, was taken into custody and appeared Friday afternoon in US District Court in Springfield. Addressing the court with the aid of a Russian interpreter, the younger Gasanov demanded to know who would repair a door at his residence that was broken during his arrest and how the court expected him to make a living while awaiting trial.
“If you’re taking my license, if you’re not allowing me to leave Massachusetts, and I have an open criminal case, what should I do with my life?” Gasanov, who is unemployed, asked Magistrate Judge Katherine A. Robertson.
He pleaded not guilty to one count of falsifying records for allegedly claiming he was “off duty” when he was in fact driving on three occasions between April 1, 2019 and June 20, 2019, the day before the deadly crash in Randolph, N.H.
The company shut down in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Last August, the Globe published an investigation that exposed how government negligence has for decades allowed drivers with menacing traffic records to remain on the road. The reports also cited loopholes rampant in the trucking industry’s regulatory system.
The federal indictment against the Gasanov brothers alleges that Westfield Transport skirted the rules in pursuit of profits, as employees routinely drove longer than allowed under federal regulations and then lied about it.
Prosecutors didn’t seek bail for Dartanyan Gasanov, who faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. The next hearing in his case was scheduled for April 27. His public defender declined to comment Friday.
Dunyadar Gasanov, who also goes by Damien, faces additional charges for allegedly lying to federal investigators and engaging in a conspiracy by instructing another Westfield Transport driver to falsify driving logs.
Last year, officials at the National Transportation Safety Board said Dunyadar Gasanov acknowledged that he had lied to investigators who interviewed him after the New Hampshire crash.
During the same conversation, Dunyadar Gasanov told investigators that falsifying driving logs is common in the trucking industry.
“In this industry, everybody [is] cheating on the logbooks,” said Dunyadar Gasanov, according to NTSB records.
The NTSB investigation revealed that Westfield Transport drivers tampered with the electronic logging devices they were required to have in their vehicles to track how many hours they drove at a time. The investigators reviewed 150 driving logs, and found that 28 had been falsified, records show.
On June 21, 2019, Zhukovskyy was high on cocaine and heroin, which he believed had been laced with fentanyl, when he crossed the center line and crashed into a pack of motorcyclists from the Jarheads Motorcycle Club, the NTSB said. The board’s investigation determined that Zhukovskyy’s impairment led to the crash.
His driver’s license should have been suspended prior to the collision but had remained valid due to lapses at the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Killed were: Albert “Woody” Mazza Jr., 59; Daniel Pereira, 58; Aaron Perry, 45, and his girlfriend, Desma Oakes, 42; Michael Ferazzi, 62; and Jo-Ann and Edward Corr, both 58, a married couple from Lakeville, Mass.
Zhukovskyy has pleaded not guilty to negligent homicide and other charges. He is expected to face trial later this year.
Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report.