Better Call Behnken

12 charged in nationwide moving company scam, Sarasota couple caught in the middle

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) - A federal grand jury has charged 12 individuals with racketeering and named more than a dozen moving companies in an elaborate fraud scheme.

The government believes there are more than 900 victims. 

Jeanne Porter and her husband found out this week that their moving company, Flagship Van Lines, was named in the indictment and shut down. 

"We don't know if we'll ever get our belongings back," Porter said. 

The Porters recently moved from Hebron, Ky. to Sarasota. Movers picked up their items in June, jacked up the rate double before they finished loading the truck, and then drove off.

They haven't seen their items since and got excuses and unreturned calls from the company. 

Now, they've discovered the company's warehouse in Ohio, where they believe their belongings are, has been seized by the federal government. 

So far, five of the 12 indicted have been arrested. According to the indictment, the defendants created fake online reviews, praising the work of their moving companies.They would quote a low price, then jack up the rate before delivering the goods.

In some cases, belongings were stolen.

When customers complained to federal regulators, the owners would simply change company names and keep the scheme going.  

The companies went by various names including First National Moving and Storage, Flagship Van Lines, Independent Van Lines JBR Underground, National Relocation Solutions, Public Moving and Storage, Public Moving Services, Smart Relocation Solutions, Trident Auto Shipping, Unified Van Lines and United National Moving and Storage.

The U.S. Department of Justice emailed Better Call Behnken this information for victims: 

"Warehouses have been seized and secured in order to protect and eventually identify victim's property. The current priority is for the law enforcement partners involved in this investigation to ascertain legal remedies to return hostage loads and release the warehouses. 

We encourage anyone who believes they may be a victim of this or any other household goods moving fraud scheme to contact DOT-OIG's hotline with relevant information and/or documentation and file a complaint."

You can also call the hotline at 1-800-424-9071.

Porter and her husband are traveling back to Kentucky to try to find their belongings. 

"This is so unfair to families to lose all their belongings and not know where they are," she said. 

More Stories

Don't Miss

Latest News - Local

Video Center