BALTIMORE — Andrey Shuklin, the leader of a nationwide moving scam that defrauded hundreds of consumers, pleaded guilty to his role in the racketeering conspiracy on Monday.
WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii first reported on the moving scheme in 2017. In 2018, 12 people were federally indicted in a moving enterprise that involved nearly a dozen different companies and spanned more than 5 years.
The defendants were accused of holding customers goods hostage, extorting victims into paying more money, and entering into contracts that they had no intention of honoring.
Since their arrests, the government has identified nearly 2,000 victims.
Bill Hermant is one of them.
In the Spring of 2018, he hired Flagship Van Lines to move his ailing mother closer to him. After paying half of the contract upfront, the prices were raised on the day of the move.
“Two guys came out to pack everything, they said there’s more stuff than it looked like, we need another $1,700 or $1,800. We gave that to them,” said Hermant.
Weeks went by, but his mom’s stuff never arrived.
“The last two months [of her life] were nothing but tears and agony waiting to find her stuff,” said Hermant.
Then in July, he read about the indictments.
“I was still searching for my stuff when I found out they’d all been arrested,” said Hermant.
In court on Monday, Shuklin said to the judge: “Yes, I am responsible.” And admitted to lying to customers.
“They knew exactly what was going on. This was calculated and cruel,” said Hermant.
Hermant thought after the movers were arrested he’d finally receive his mom's things, instead, he had to hire a private detective who tracked down one of the drivers.
“I called him and with a little influence he told me where my mom’s stuff was. She was in Missouri, her stuff was in Kansas, it was about a four-hour drive from where they picked it up,” said Hermant.
He had to rent a moving truck, pay the storage unit, and move her things himself. The whole process took him around eight months.
“She never got all her stuff back, it’s still sitting in my garage in boxes,” said Hermant.
Now that Shuklin has pleaded guilty, there will be a sentencing date. The government estimated restitution owed in this case is around $2.5 million dollars, but called the number “conservative” and said it could increase over the course of the case.
As far as the other 11 defendants, most have either entered into guilty pleas or are in the process of negotiating.
Four defendants are still considered fugitives.