CINCINNATI -- A federal grand jury charged 12 people in connection to a moving company scam that targeted people in at least 10 states, including Ohio, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman announced in Cincinnati Tuesday.
Between April 2013 and this month, the moving company owners and employees stole from and lied to their customers. The companies would provide low estimates for moving, and set a price before the move. However, they would then bump up the price after loading a customer's goods on a truck, officials said in a news release. Glassman said the companies would hold their customers' property "hostage" and steal the goods if the customers refused to pay.
"This enterprise scammed people throughout the nation," Glassman said at a news conference.
In order to draw customers, the defendants would lie about how long the companies had existed, claiming years of experience when they'd been founded just months earlier, officials said. They would also create fake online reviews praising the companies.
The scammed customers would file complaints, and officials would end up pulling the companies' licenses. However, Glassman said the conspirators would stay a step ahead by forming new companies and applying for licenses under new names. The conspirators would hide the identities of the true owners in order to receive new licenses.
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
The companies operated out of a business address in Hollywood, Florida. Glassman said authorities had locked down seven warehouses connected to the companies, including one in West Chester, Ohio.
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, fo Charlotte, North Carolina; and Jessica Martin, 28, of Tamarac, Florida. Glassman said more arrests were being made as he spoke Tuesday afternoon.
The defendants are charged with racketeering.
Glassman said investigators have identified more than 900 victims of the scam so far. He asked anyone who believes they may also be a victim to call 1-800-424-9071 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.