Five defendants, four from Florida and one from North Carolina, were arrested Tuesday.
The co-conspirators owned, operated and worked as employees, members and associates of the affiliated moving companies. The moving companies were operated principally out of a business address in Hollywood, Fla. and had a warehouse in West Chester.
The defendants allegedly conducted the scam between April 2013 through July 2018 by stealing from customers who hired their moving companies to move their household goods.
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According to the U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman’s office, the defendants allegedly lied to customers about their company’s credentials and even created fake online reviews, praising their work.
When potential customers contacted the defendants, the defendants would allegedly provide customers with low, binding estimates to do their move, promising to beat their competitor’s prices. After the customers agreed to hire the moving companies, their employees would allegedly load the customers’ goods onto the truck and then bump the price of the move.
The defendants and the moving companies would allegedly refuse to give back the household goods until customers paid the inflated prices. If customers did not pay the inflated prices the defendants would, in some cases, steal the customers’ items.
In July 2016, First National Moving and Storage allegedly loaded a customer’s goods to move from Round Rock, Texas to Columbus, Ohio. After loading the goods, the company increased the cost of the move and told the customer that she had to agree to the higher price or the customer’s goods would not be returned to her. The customer called the company to complain, and, during one phone call, the customer was told by the company that her items would be auctioned if she did not pay the higher price.
The defendants are charged with conspiring to conduct the affairs of the moving companies through a pattern of racketeering activity, consisting of multiple acts of wire fraud, theft of an interstate shipment by carrier, Hobbs Act extortion and identification fraud.
If you believe you are a victim of this fraudulent activity, please call the Victim Hotline at 800-424-9071 or email email@example.com.