Victims of a nationwide moving scam are finally getting some good news, they'll be able to reclaim their items after months of waiting.
Andrey Shuklin, the man accused of operating the scheme, has agreed to release the household goods being stored in six warehouses across the country, including one in Baltimore, Md.
Investigators have identified more than 160 shipments belonging to customers of Flagship Van Lines, Unified Van Lines, Public Moving Services, Presidential Moving, and several others.
On July 25, 12 people were charged with operating more than a dozen moving companies that held customer's goods hostage, hiked up prices, and in some cases never returned people's households.
“These indictments send a bold message that moving fraud schemes will not be tolerated,” said Thomas Ullom, Regional Special Agent-in Charge with the US Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General during a news conference on July 31.
The FBI and DOT Office of the Inspector General located the belongings in various warehouses, but they couldn't just hand them over, first they needed permission from Shuklin.
On Tuesday, Shuklin granted the government's request.
According to court documents, the U.S. Attorney’s Officer for the Southern District of Ohio met with Shuklin’s counsel. All were in agreement that the household goods should be returned to customers expeditiously.
WMAR-2 News has learned that some victims will be able to retrieve their items as early as this week.
Agents also found other shipments but have not yet been able to identify the owners.
More victims, different moving company:
While they work to coordinate with victims on pick-up dates, another moving company appears to have picked up where the rogue operators left off.
Chris Baumann hired Titan Moving and Storage Van Lines Corp. in June. Seventy-two days after his move, he's still missing everything.
“My wife's wedding dress, she's talked about that a lot. We have three daughters she wanted at least to give them the shot of using it one day, that's gone. There's just lots of personal things but I'll also tell you, this kills me to say out loud, they got my personal identity stuff,” Baumann said.
The moving company purportedly in Chantilly, Virginia, also doubled his binding estimate on day of pick-up.
“So, just to give you the facts, it went from $6,270 to $12,000,” Baumann said.
And he's not alone. Baumann has identified a network of victims of this company and he's reaching out to any federal agency willing to listen in an effort to get them to do something.
“When you become a victim, and you truly feel the devastation and pain of what this causes to your family, you need to tell people about it,” said Baumann.
This new scheme is another warning and more evidence that bad actors are driving the moving industry in the wrong direction.
“And I honestly still feel like this is a hopeless situation for me,” said Baumann.
The website for Titan Moving and Storage Van Lines Corp is no longer active. WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii also tried calling and emailing the company but no one answered the phone and emails bounced back.
WMAR-2 News also obtained documents that show as of July 12, 2018, the moving company did not have the authority to move people, but they continued to do so.
The FMCSA could not find evidence that the company operated its business at 13893 Willard Rd. in Chantilly, Va., which was provided in their application.
More than 80 complaints have been filed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Several federal agencies are now investigating the company.
Many have also confused the business with a reputable moving company in Alexandria, Va. called Titan Moving and Storage LLC.
And looking back, Baumann wishes he trusted his instincts.
- Titan Moving and Storage Van Lines Corp asked for 35 percent down, it should only be around 10 percent or less.
- They said they couldn't take credit card
- They gave him an estimate over the phone. It should always be in-person.
- They doubled the binding estimate. According to the law, the price can only be changed if it's mutually agreed upon and done before your shipment is loaded.
All of this information can be found in the FMCSA's “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” booklet.