Moving company accused of taking entire household of furniture bound for North Carolina and disappearing
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Larry Ward took a giant step when he decided last year to uproot his life in Riverside, California and move to Wilmington, North Carolina. His excitement about being here was depressed when he said the company he paid to move his belongings disappeared after they packed the moving truck.
“He picked up all of my things on October 27th and that was the last time I saw them,” said Ward from his new home in Wilmington, which is practically empty months after he moved in [that moving truck] I could never replace that. I have things my dad did for me when I was a kid. Family photos. “
In addition to the irreplaceable sentimental items, Ward also had about $ 50,000 worth of furniture and belongings that he had accumulated throughout his life. When he hired Move Smart to pack his house, they had told him that everything would be delivered to Wilmington in five to 20 days. He initially agreed to the wait as it was a cross-country move, but got nervous after six weeks and hadn’t heard of a Move Smart delivery date.
When Ward called the Charlotte-based company and asked about the owner, Jason Pacheco, the man who ran the removal team he signed the deal with, he couldn’t call him. Then he decided to call the police.
“When I talked to the police about it, they said, ‘Well, he didn’t commit a crime. The only thing he was guilty of is that he didn’t deliver your things to you. In a sense, he’s just guilty of being lazy, ”said Ward, recalling his frustrating conversation with the Riverside Police.
When he investigated the matter further, Ward found that Pacheco had previously been accused of doing so. An Arizona news station told a story about him in March after failing to deliver items to a family who moved to Massachusetts from the Phoenix area. There reporters learned that Move Smart’s license was revoked by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on November 2, 2020, just days after they collected all of Ward’s belongings. Consumers filed 43 complaints about Move Smart with the federal government in 2020, and an additional 10 complaints were received in the first few months of 2021.
“When I found out that he had done it to so many other people, I couldn’t believe it. It was as if nobody could harm him. He had all my belongings and money and he disappeared and nobody cared about it and nobody seemed to have anything to do. I was lucky when an agency returned my call, ”said Ward.
Although he initially thought he was hiring a moving company, Ward later found out that he had contacted a moving agent. This is a middle man who buys out the move to competing moving companies and then hires a moving company to do the physical move for you. Ward said the moving agent had good reviews. Move Smart, the real creators they put him in touch with, got a bad grade with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), but he didn’t know that until it was too late.
The BBB, which files thousands of complaints about moving fraud every year, generally advises against using a moving broker.
“They are supposed to negotiate the price of the move between different moving companies for the homeowner. But in many cases there are no real negotiations because they are [connected] to the moving company, ”said Renee Wilkstrom, communications manager for Coastal Carolina’s Better Business Bureau.
“I found out once [Pacheco with Move Smart] had done it to so many other people that I couldn’t believe it. It was as if nobody could harm him. He had all of my belongings and my money and he disappeared. And nobody cared about it and nobody seemed to have anything to do with it. I was lucky when an agency returned my call, ”Ward said of unsuccessful attempts to get help from the police or federal agencies.
Faced with the possibility of losing everything he owned, Ward hired a lawyer to intervene. This attorney caught the moving agent’s attention and they were able to trace Ward’s belongings to a storage unit in California. But Ward encountered another obstacle after flying to California to visit the storage unit in person.
“He said, ‘I can’t open it for you without a court order or Jason’s permission.’ And I said, “Well, this guy did that to so many people. And you protect him and I’m the one who’s the victim here. I flew all the way here from North Carolina,” Ward said of sharing with him Manager of the warehouse company. “And so I basically went home empty-handed.”
Despite many roadblocks, Ward and his lawyer eventually got results. His belongings, which were in the storage unit he was visiting in California, have now been found. The original moving agent is trying to fix things and pays to have another moving company bring Ward’s belongings to Wilmington in mid-May. He hopes his cautionary story will warn others about this moving company in particular, and about moving fraud in general.
“Especially when you cross national borders, a local police authority cannot necessarily interfere. They can take it to a state level, but they won’t cross state lines unless they have plenty of evidence to prove that side of the case, “said Wilkstrom of the difficulty of finding recourse once a fraudulent mover takes hold is in control of your possessions.
WECT tried unsuccessfully to contact Pacheco for comment.
Consumers can file a complaint with the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration if they have had a problem with a moving company. Even then, it can be difficult for the agency to do more than revoke the company’s license to operate interstate travel. Experts say it pays to do your homework on the front end when hiring a moving company and, if possible, work with a company with a local presence so you can turn to if something goes wrong.