A federal judge may open six warehouses across the country — including one in West Chester Twp. — so that 163 victims of an alleged moving company scam can retrieve their belongings.
Federal prosecutors filed a motion on Tuesday asking U.S. District Judge Tim Black to lift a restraining order and allow them to return furniture and belongings to desperate families, according to our news partners at WCPO.
“Many of these customers … are in urgent need of their household goods and personal property,” prosecutors wrote in the motion. “The nature of the property in question – household goods (in some circumstances, most of the household goods the customers own) and invaluable personal items … necessitate ensuring the property is returned to customers as expeditiously as possible.”
Black is likely to issue an order this week that would allow U.S. Department of Transportation agents to open warehouses in Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, Connecticut and Ohio and return the belongings.
The warehouse on Duff Drive in West Chester Twp. is housing the belongings of 32 customers, according to WCPO.
A federal grand jury charged 12 people tied to a nationwide moving company scam, including six who have not yet been arrested.
Moving company employees gave customers low estimates, but then bumped up the prices after they had loaded goods onto their trucks. They then held the property “hostage” and stole goods if the customers refused to pay, according to a federal news release detailing a scheme that spanned 10 states and began in 2013.
In order to draw customers, they lied about how long the companies had existed, claiming years of experience when they’d been founded just months earlier. They also created fake online reviews, officials said.
The connected companies include:
• First National Moving and Storage
• Flagship Van Lines
• JBR Underground
• National Relocation Van Lines
• National Relocation Solutions
• Presidential Moving Services
• Public Moving and Storage
• Public Moving Services
• Smart Relocation Solutions
• Trident Auto Shipping
• Unified Van Lines
• United National Moving and Storage
• US Relocation Systems
Authorities arrested Andrey Shulkin, 31, of Miami; Phyllis Ricci Quincoces, 51, of Hollywood, Florida; Vladimir Pestereanu, 28, of Sunny Isles Beach, Florida; Roman Iakovlev, 31, of Charlotte, North Carolina; and Jessica Martin, 28, of Tamarac, Florida. Serghei Verlan is also charged in the indictment, along with six others whose names have been redacted because they have not yet been arrested.
Investigators have identified more than 900 victims of the scam so far. Anyone who believes they may also be a victim is asked to call 1-800-424-9071 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.