Last November, Eric Ancheta and Christina Grady hired Presidential Moving LLC to transport their belongings from California to Virginia. The movers came on December 3 and gave them an estimated delivery date of December 21 but their items never arrived. Twelve weeks later, they're still hounding the company trying to get an answer on when they'll see their things again.
"We had to go buy new stuff, had to buy new plates, pans, stuff to just be able to live on because our entire household is somewhere in storage where we don't even know where it's at," said Ancheta.
Scott Michael is president of the American Moving and Storage Association, a national trade association for the moving industry. He feels regulations need to be strengthened to keep rogue operators from hurting the industry's reputation.
"In many cases, they're just criminals that are out to rip off consumers and aren't really trying to move people, they're just trying to take your things and take your money," Michael said.
It's how Ancheta feels about his recent experience with Presidential Moving.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the agency charged with regulating and overseeing interstate moves. In 2017, they received 83 complaints against the company and 55 complaints in the first two months of 2018.
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is assisting the FMCSA in their investigation into the Texas-based company. A spokesperson said they've received 136 complaints since October 2017, 89 of which were investigated and most resulted in the final deliveries of consumers' household goods. However, no penalties have been assessed by the Texas DMV or FMCSA, according to their website. Both say their investigations are ongoing. The company is still authorized as a household goods mover through FMCSA.
ABC2 requested an interview with the agency but Sharon Worthy, the director of external affairs, declined. In an email, she responded to some of our questions writing that they cannot comment on the specifics of an investigation and that there must be due process before revoking or suspending a carrier's operating authority.
ABC2 has also been looking into the background of another company with a high-number of complaints.
"It did not occur to me that I was going to arrive here and eight weeks later have no items," said Lexi Hull who hired Public Moving Services to move her family's things from California to Maryland last July.
After receiving nearly 100 complaints in 2017, the Charlotte-based company's operating authority was revoked last October due to its Principal Place of Business. ABC2 has requested more information on the charges against the company. According to the FMCSA's website, no penalties have been assessed.
ABC2 also found that Public Moving Services and Presidential Moving, the company hired by Ancheta, are connected.
Through wire transfer instructions and business registration records, there's a link between the two companies and 14 others, 12 of which we traced back to one individual, Andrey Shuklin. Four of the companies are also registered in Maryland.
"It's not surprising that there are a lot of different names being used that are maybe related to each other," said Michael.
Companies that reincarnate after being fined, shutdown, or called out on social media are also called chameleon carriers.
"This is a common trait for the bad players within this industry," said Angie Barnett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Greater Maryland. "They'll open up a business and then once they get complaints, once they have issues, they close down, open up down the street under a new name so that makes it hard to track them, hard to track their websites."
The BBB tries to list connected companies and websites but there are challenges in finding all the links and they're affecting the moving industry.
"The professional moving and storage industry really is impacted by these folks when they go out and harm consumers some of that blame falls on the rest of the industry," Michael said.
For someone who would love to see the rogue operators shut down and shut out for good, Michael doesn't put all of the blame on the regulatory agency.
"So FMCSA is trying very hard to regulate these companies and find the bad ones. They don't have a lot of resources to operate with and so they have limited staff, limited ability to go after some of these companies," said Michael.
Educating consumers on researching moving companies is key, but when you become a victim, there doesn't seem to be a way or a good answer on how to get back all of your treasured belongings.
"It's really a challenge once you find yourself at the hands of these folks to try and find a way to get out of it and get everything delivered," said Michael.
"But at the same time, what do we do? We're just praying they surrender our stuff, like enough is enough and it's just been really hard," said Christina Grady, Ancheta's fiancée.
Presidential Moving and Public Moving Services did not return our emails or calls.
The various company names include Presidential Moving, Public Moving Services, Your Moving Company LLC, Wonderland LLC, Moving National Solutions LLC, Independent Van Lines LLC, National Relocation Van Lines LLC, National United Moving & Storage, JBR Underground LLC, Move It Maryland, Olympus A & S LLC, President A & S LLC, Relomarket LLC, Trident Auto Shipping LLC, and U.S. Relocation Systems LLC.
For more information on ways to protect your move, click here.
If you have a Matter for Mallory, you can email her at Mallory@wmar.com