The Department of Justice indicted 12 people in what it calls a moving company scam that victimized more than 900 people in at least ten states.
Texas is known for warm welcomes, but Theresa Riley’s arrival was not.
“The whole thing was just,” she pauses and shakes her head. “It was just one thing after another with them.”
In December, Riley hired Presidential Moving to move everything she owned from Florida to Haltom City. It was April before she was able to track down her belongings. She lived in an empty home for four months, and during that time there were several heated phone calls with Presidential Moving.
“I mean like this lady was screaming at me saying you shouldn’t have hired us if you couldn’t afford us and, just making me feel like I was trash,” Riley said. “I kept saying what you’re doing is not legal. And she’d say, ‘How am I still in business if what I’m doing isn’t legal?’”
Riley says Presidential Moving tried to increase her bill from around $2,300 to almost $5,000 and refused to accept a cashier’s check for the original amount they agreed upon.
It’s the scenario the Department of Justice described in a press release announcing the indictment of 12 people associated with Presidential Moving. They face charges of racketeering, theft and extortion for defrauding people over a five-and-a -half year period. “He was really convincing and smooth,” Riley said of the Presidential employee she spoke with on the phone before hiring them, “and before I knew it I was paying him a deposit.”
Presidential Moving lists an address on Avenue E in Arlington on its website. The warehouse at that address is empty, and next door the landlord posted a sign that read, “Public Moving is no longer a tenant.” Public Moving and Presidential Moving are two of 14 different names the Department of Justice says this company used.
According to the press release, the company would offer low estimates, and after loading up and hauling away customers’ things, they’d bump up the price by several thousand dollars. When customers refused to pay, the Department of Justice said the moving companies refused to deliver.
“It’s literally my life. You have my life, and you take it for ransom,” said Adam Price, regional director of the Better Business Bureau. The BBB opened its own investigation after receiving more than 90 complaints.
Price said it’s important for customers looking for a moving company to do a significant amount of homework, because fraud is not all that rare in that industry. “Get several bids, the idea that I’m going to pick up the phone and get an immediate quote for you to move me – that’s a red flag,” Price said.
After months of fights on the phone, Riley tracked down her belongings to the Presidential Moving warehouse in Arlington. She rented a truck and, by herself, picked it up and moved it to her Haltom City home. Several things were missing. Replacing them meant she spent money she didn’t have.
She said the indictments made her feel relieved that the government caught on and thankful the company got caught. “I’m glad they’re not able to do it to anybody else,” she said.