A federal grand jury has charged 12 individuals with conspiring in a racketeering enterprise to defraud individuals through their moving companies located throughout the United States, including in Florida, Ohio, Maryland, North Carolina, Illinois, Texas, California, Connecticut, Colorado and Missouri.
Law enforcement officials have identified more than 900 customers as victims of the scheme.
Five defendants were arrested on July 31, 2018.
Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Thomas J. Ullom, Regional Special Agent-in-Charge, Officer of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Transportation(USDOT) and Angela L. Byers, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Cincinnati Division, announced the charges.
According to the indictment, the defendants operated a number of affiliated moving companies, which include:
First National Moving & Storage
Flagship Van Lines
Independent Van Lines
National Relocation Van Lines
National Relocation Solutions
Presidential Moving Services
Public Moving & Storage
Public Moving Services
Smart Relocation Solutions
Trident Auto Shipping
Unified Van Lines
United National Moving & Storage
US Relocation Systems
According to investigators, the co-conspirators owned, operated and worked as employees, members and associates of the moving companies. They operated principally out of a business address in Hollywood, Florida and had a warehouse in West Chester, Ohio.
The defendants allegedly executed a scheme between April 2013 through July 2018 to steal from customers who hired their moving companies to move their household goods.
It is alleged that the defendants lied to customers about how long their moving companies had been in business, claiming many years of experience for companies that had been created just a few short months ago. The defendants are also alleged to have created fake online reviews, praising the work of their moving companies.
When potential customers contacted the defendants, investigators say they would provide customers with low binding estimates to do their move, promising to beat competitor pricing. After obtaining the customer’s business, employees of the moving companies would then allegedly load the customers’ goods onto the truck and then bump the price of the move.
Under federal regulations, in a binding estimate a customer and a motor carrier must both agree in writing to a charge for services prior to the start of any work. When an estimate is binding, USDOT prevents interstate carriers from raising the price of a move after loading customers’ items.
Law enforcement investigators say that the moving companies would refuse to give back the customers’ belongings until they paid the inflated prices. If customers did not pay the increased price, it is alleged that in some cases, the defendants stole the customers’ goods, never delivering them.
In one case, in July 2016, First National Moving and Storage loaded a customers’ goods to transport them 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 that her belongings would not be returned to her. The customer called the company to complain. The customer reported that during one phone call, that she was told by the company that her items would be auctioned if she did not pay the higher price.
After customers complained to local law enforcement agencies and federal regulators, it is alleged that these companies would shut down and open a new moving company, lying to federal regulators and hiding the identities of the true owners in order to receive new licenses to operate.
Those arrested 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.
Those arrested include: Andrey Shuklin, 31 of Miami, Phyllis Ricci Quincoces, 51, of Hollywood, FL, Vladimir Pestereanu, 28, Sunny Isles Beach, FL, Roman Iakovlev, 31, of Charlotte, NC, and Jessica Martin, 28, of Tamarac, FL.
If you believe you are a victim of this fraudulent activity, call the Victim Hotline at 1-800-424-9071 or email email@example.com.