Two men arrested in alleged 'hostage movers' scam

March 28, 2012 4:08:03 PM PDT
We first told you about so-called 'hostage movers' nearly two years ago when several Houston area residents hired seemingly inexpensive moving companies, only to have the price skyrocket after the trucks were loaded. Now police have arrested a pair of men they say ran the entire operation and we are learning there are dozens of alleged victims.

"I think about it all the time," said victim Selena Tristan.

It was two years ago when Tristan hired $99 Movers to move her belongings less than two miles. Back then, Tristan told us as soon as the moving van got to her new home the movers demanded $4,400 or they would take her things out of state and eventually sell it.

"If my house was broken into when I was not home and then came home, it would be ten times better than what that is, because you are actually watching someone take your stuff and there is nothing you can do about it and it is the most helpless feeling ever," Tristan said.

Now the alleged foreman on that move, Andy Trinidad Bueno, and the man police say owned the moving company, Anthony Fanelli, are both behind bars.

"I called my mom, my dad, my fiance, I was like, 'You are never going to believe this,'" said Tristan.

Court documents show that Bueno and Fanelli operated more than a dozen moving companies that advertised cheap moves on Houston police say after the movers loaded up a person's belongings, the price would skyrocket. Police say if the victims did not pay, the movers would threaten to take the belongings away. Police say in reality the men would sell off the goods or take them for themselves.

"They were posing as legitimate moving companies, attracting consumers with advertisements and then once consumers signed the contract, the prices changed," said Assistant District Attorney Valerie Turner.

Turner says police found 19 cases in which Fanelli and Bueno pulled the same thing. Most of the victim came from Harris County. Authorities have been on the trail of Bueno and Fanelli for months, Tristan says she believed it was only a matter of time before her movers ended up behind bars.

"I looked at them I and told them, 'You have not seen the last of me. This is not done by far. What you are doing is wrong,'" said Tristan.

The men are still behind bars, and could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. The woman in our story was not one of the victims included in the charging documents, but Tristan told us she will call the District Attorney's office and get her name added to the list.

After our stories on the movers first ran in 2010, we got dozens of calls from victims -- some are included in the court documents, others are not, so it is possible other victims could come forward.

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