New law helps protect movers from scammers

May 1, 2012 4:20:02 PM PDT
It may be the end of the line for hostage movers in the state of Texas. A new law makes it easier for police to stop the practice.

This comes after dozens of Houston residents fell victim to a pair of rogue movers who quoted one price, then added thousands to the bill after loading up a victim's belongings onto a truck. We first started telling you about hostage movers two years ago when victims contacted us saying they were helpless to get their things back unless they came up with thousands of dollars. That's changed today, because the law has changed.

May is National Moving Month, a time when most moves take place. This time around it comes wrapped with a new law in Texas aimed at sending rogue movers packing.

"We can put them in jail today," said, John Esparza, Executive Director of the Southwest Houston Movers Association.

He says, in the past, rogue movers rarely even got a ticket when consumer called the authorities after a move went badly. Now the police can charge movers with a crime if they jack up the cost of a move after loading a person's goods onto a truck.

Esparza explained, "A class A misdemeanor means a year in jail, max a year in jail, plus quadruple the fine, per offense. You get 32 different offenses and you can prosecute every one of them, you have got these folks for a while."

Police say Anthony Bueno and Andy Fanelli operated as rogue movers. Authorities say the men would advertise inexpensive moving services, only to raise the price by thousands of dollars after a person's possessions were in a truck. Investigator Gilbert Brillion with the Houston Police Department helped bring the men to justice.

He said, "Up to this point, a lot of our patrol officers and all the agencies simply did not know what to do."

Brillion says the new law makes it easier for officers to find out if a mover is registered with the state and the US Department of Transportation.

"They should ask for what's called a cab card, it has the license information, mover's insurance," Brillion explained. "If they do not have a cab card with that information, now they can be penalized criminally."

The best advice for someone hiring a mover, if the company cannot produce state and federal license information, do not hire them and never let them touch your belongings.

Another piece of advice -- avoid movers that advertise one low rate for every move. All of the victims of moving scams we talked to over the last couple of years say they called movers that advertised $99 moves.

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