- MILWAUKEE -- A notorious
Florida moving company that ran into trouble with the law earlier this
year has resurfaced, refusing to deliver a Milwaukee woman's furniture
until she made additional payments.
- Elizabeth Stuckey paid Advanced Moving Systems of Plantation,
Fla., $2,250 to move her possessions from Arlington, Texas, to Milwaukee's
Bay View neighborhood last month, Stuckey said.
- But the company wanted another $1,300 because, Advance
Moving said, the size of the load was larger than expected. Her furniture
was held in a Hammond, Ind., warehouse until she paid the extra money on
- Stuckey said she got her belongings after telling the
movers that if she could watch them load the truck in Hammond, she would
pay the exta money. She said she persuaded the movers to tell her the storage
facility's location after she told them she would give them the extra money.
- "There were things from at least five different
people in there. My stuff was stacked vertically," Stuckey said. She
watched the truck loading, and the movers drove to her Bay View home, where
her father met them. He paid the movers with a $1,300 cashier's check.
And they unloaded her possessions.
- "Some of it is damaged," Stuckey said. "Knobs
have been sheared off things, chairs are cracked and corners are gone off
- Owned by Israeli nationals
- It's not unusual for dozens of moving companies, many
of them based in Florida and owned by Israeli nationals, to give low-ball
bids and then jack up their prices once a customer's goods are on a truck,
consumer advocates say. Many of these companies market themselves over
- Two Advanced Moving Systems movers were arrested in April
when they attempted a similar maneuver on a Thiensville couple. Charges
were later dropped, but the two men were extradited to North Carolina,
where they were found guilty of damaging a customer's property, smashing
a piece of furniture each time the customer refused to pay them more money.
- After a similar incident in Lancaster, Pa., police there
said they will arrest Advanced Moving's owner, Zion Rokah, if he ever returns
to the area.
- Zion Rokah is an Israeli national, as was the driver
arrested in Thiensville.
- Little recourse for consumers
- As Stuckey found out, consumers have little recourse
but to pay whatever the mover wants.
- "If they ask for $100,000, you'll have to give them
$100,000," Stuckey said U.S. Department of Transportation officials
told her when she called them for help.
- "They said the only way I'll get satisfaction is
if I know a guy named Guido with a submachine gun and go down to Florida."
- "I never in my wildest dreams thought fraud, extortion
and theft were legal. But apparently they are," Stuckey said.
- It's against federal law, of course, for movers to ask
for more than 110% on delivery of the estimate or to hold people's furniture
hostage until they pay, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration,
a division of the U.S. DOT, which says it gets as many as 4,000 complaints
a year from people like Stuckey.
- But FBI agents or other federal law enforcers are hard
to come by for people like Stuckey when movers demand more money to unload
- The U.S. DOT's enforcement arm has only 100 investigators,
none of whom is assigned to moving company scams, officials said earlier
- Local police have no jurisdiction to enforce federal
law. It would take a state law to give them the jurisdictional wherewithal
to come to Sutckey's rescue, officials say.
- Mover not available
- A reporter was told that Rokah was not available to take
- Rokah has gotten into hot water this year with the federal
- In July, his company was fined $98,000 by the Federal
Motor Carrier Safety Administration for failing to provide consumer information
to customers and not meeting certain paperwork requirements.
- Internet consumer sites contain dozens of complaints
about Rokah and Advanced Moving Systems.
- Because of those complaints, the company has an unsatisfactory
rating from the Better Business Bureau. But that hasn't stopped the company
from putting the Better Business Bureau's logo on its Web site, a trademark
violation. Last summer, Rokah removed the BBB logo from its Web site when
a Journal Sentinel reporter asked him about it during a telephone interview.
- The company's Web site also says it is based in San Antonio,
not in Florida as stated in its DOT filings. Earlier this year, the Web
site said it was based in Chatsworth, Calif.
- In both cases, phone calls to the toll-free number listed
on the Web site were answered by the same person who answered calls placed
to its local Florida number.
- "It's the usual cat and mouse, trying to stay one
step ahead of the law,"" said James Balderrama, a Florida-based
operator of www.movingadvocateteam.com, a Web site that targets unscrupulous
- First published 12-9-02
- From Name Withheld
- Dear Jeff,
- This moving scam has been in existence for sometime and
has no ethnic bounds. I, too, was robbed .
- It involved the moving of my machinery and an additional
sum in the amount of $2000 was being extorted from me. I didn't realize
that I was doing business with the Italian American Mafia.
- I was advised that if I didn't come up with the cash
I might never see my machinery again. The District Attorney's office that
suggested I would be better off to pay them the money and save my machines
from possible destruction than get involved with some ongoing litagation.
- Having gone to the DA, and seeing one of their trucks
in the parking lot, I feared for my life.
- I paid the additional money, in cash, and the goons delivered
my machinery with the exception of the most needed item, a curing oven.
I then had to hire another mover to deliver the oven for an added $1500.
- Israeli Mafia, Russian Mafia, Italian Mafia, Irish Mafia,
same ol same ol, they will always be there to rip some unsuspecting person
- Respectfully request that you withhold my name as I never
felt very comfortable telling about this incident.