In the state of Florida, there are a apparently a rash of moving companies that are holding people’s furniture and belongings hostage during the moving process, demanding more money in exchange for their release.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced last week that her office is taking legal action against more than a dozen moving companies for allegedly using deceptive marketing and sales of household moving services, while also holding people’s belongings “hostage for ransom.”
According to Bondi’s office, the 14 moving companies, which are all located in Broward and Dade counties, allegedly used false or deceptive advertising to convince people to purchase moving services.
The companies allegedly promised that their movers would be “highly trained, professional or expert movers,” but in actuality, the movers were “untrained laborers,” who damaged, destroyed, or even stole peoples’ property during their move.
In other cases, people allegedly received supposedly binding low-price estimates for moving services, but once their move began and some of their belongings were loaded onto a moving truck, the movers in question allegedly “substantially” increased the price of their move.
Then, according to Bondi’s office, if the consumers refused to pay the higher fees, the movers allegedly threatened to hold the consumers’ goods hostage until they paid the higher fee.
“Our complaints allege these moving companies deliberately loaded people’s belongings onto a truck, hiked up prices and then forced customers to pay before releasing the items,” Bondi said in a statement. “We are working closely with the U.S. Department of Transportation to stop these scams and hold the companies responsible for using these deceptive tactics.”
Bondi’s office filed four separate complaints in federal court alleging violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, as well as both federal and state moving statutes, against the following businesses and individuals:
- Moving and Storage Accounting Inc., Moving and Storage Accounting Services Inc., Moving Services Accounting and Storage Inc., and Dr. Schlepper Inc., d/b/a Full Service Van Lines, located in Pompano Beach, and principals Maxx J. Socher and Grace Metzger
- Ocean Moving Storage Corp., located in Pembroke Pines, and principal Itai Carmel
- U.S. Moving Services Inc., Moving Storage SF Inc., formerly known as Safeway Moving Storage Inc., and Moving Systems Inc., formerly known as Spartan Van Lines, located in North Miami, and principal Yehoshua Vaknin
Additionally, Bondi’s office filed two complaints in state court against the following companies and the principals for allegedly engaging in similar ransom moving schemes:
- All USA Van Lines Inc, Moving Group Inc, Top Movers Inc., Guzi’s Investments, LLC, Cross Country Movers LLC, 24/7 Moving Services Inc., Transworld Movers Inc., and Emoving Company, located in Hollywood, Florida, and principal Ohad E. Guzi a/k/a Chad Cuzi
- Upline Moving Storage Inc., formerly known as #1 Van Lines Inc., located in Hollywood, Florida, and its principal, Daneshia L. Augustin
The complaints seek a permanent injunction, consumer restitution and civil penalties from each of the 14 moving companies and principals.
“This civil action highlights our persistent efforts to combat deceptive household goods movers who take advantage of customers by holding their personal belongings hostage for ransom, demanding the owners pay unanticipated, exorbitant fees,” said Todd Damiani, Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General Regional Special Agent-in-Charge.
“We appreciate the extraordinary efforts of the Florida Attorney General’s Office and valuable assistance from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration,” Damiani continued. “The OIG is committed to continuing to work with local, state and federal prosecutorial partners across the country to ensure that household goods movers adhere to federal laws and regulations designed to protect the public.”