DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - It was a beautiful March day when Theresa Riley invited the Consumer Justice crew into her home. The rooms were virtually empty for more than two months. "I can't explain not having your things." She bought a blow-up mattress to sleep on and financed a couch for the living room. The walls were bare except for a single plaque, honoring her mother. "I'm so glad I had it in my car," said Riley.
The rest of her belongings -- furniture, clothing, dishes, appliances and other household goods -- were supposedly in a warehouse in Arlington, after being moved here from Florida.
Riley says she hired Presidential Moving Services after the death of her mother. "I just think I wasn't on my game, looking after this company." Presidential's written estimate came to about $3,500, and they were scheduled to pick everything up on December 27, 2017.
Riley says she was at the store picking up more packing supplies on December 26 when her phone rang. "I got a call and she said 'the guys are 20 minutes away.' I was like -- 'I'm sorry?' " Riley says she told the woman she was not ready, and that she wanted to stick to the original pick-up date. "She goes, 'oh don't worry about it -- whoever we send, we'll send them to help you pack. They're not going to charge you nothing, it's going to be free.' "
Riley rushed home to meet the crew. "They started throwing things in [the boxes] and filling them halfway and closing them. And I said 'wait a minute, why won't you fill the box up?'" The men insisted they knew what they were doing but Riley says before long, the truck was full. That's when the man in charge tore up her contract, saying he had "messed up" the first one.
The original $3,500 estimate was now at $4,200. Riley says she had already paid $2,200 down. When she called customer service to complain about the price increase, she was stunned at what she was told. "Well you shouldn't have hired us if you couldn't afford us." The truck left as Riley argued with customer service. "She said 'well you won't be getting your stuff until you pay what you owe.' "
Almost two weeks later, the moving crew arrived at her new home in Haltom City. She says she tried to give the man a cashier's check for $1,800 -- more than what her original estimate said she owed -- but he demanded cash. "So I had to go back to the bank and get cash," said Riley. "But they wouldn't accept it." The crew told her now she owed $2,900. When she said she didn't have it, they drove away.
Keith Asbell said it happened to him, too. "What I should've done was told them to unload and leave." Asbell hired Presidential to move his family from California to Oklahoma, so he could care for his aging parents. He says the movers took 12 hours to load the truck. "They're loading and they're saying 'oh we'll put this box over here, this will be extra, oh wait your cubic feet's gonna be more, you're going to be over your estimate.'" They finished loading around midnight -- that's when the price more than doubled. "Our estimate went from around $4,000 to $9,700 and some change." Asbell tried calling customer service but no one answered.
Still, Asbell said he thought he would sort it out in the morning. "And then we started trying to call. No answer. Call, no answer. No answer. That went on for weeks." Asbell and his family drove to Oklahoma and waited for their belongings to arrive. "They called and said they wanted more money and I said 'well hey we gotta talk about this.' " Asbell said he argued about the contract but it didn't do any good. "They basically said ' you're gonna pay us this money. If you don't, your stuff is ours. We'll never give it to you, you're gonna pay us and you're gonna have to wire us $5,000 or we're not gonna do anything from here on out.' "
Making things worse: Asbell and his wife didn't have the specialized equipment they need to care for their daughter, Stephanie, who has cerebral palsy. "She can't walk, she can't talk, she can't take care of herself," said Asbell. Stephanie's bed, lifts, and some medication were on the truck. "Being ripped off is one thing. Having your daughter's life in danger? That's another."
Asbell says he pleaded with the company to no avail. Finally he contacted the Texas DMV and the local sheriff's office. Both agencies helped negotiate the return of his goods for the original price. But for Asbell, that was just the beginning of his fight. He now helps run a Facebook page dedicated to helping customers who say they've been scammed by Presidential. Asbell says he's heard from nearly 100 people with stories just like his. "This is what I do. I'm retired. I spend all day helping our members."
The Fort Worth Better Business Bureau is also trying to help, by warning customers about the company. Presidential, which also goes by the name President Moving Services, has an F-rating with the BBB. "The reality is, even if they had a contract, they're lying to folks," said BBB spokesman Adam Price. "They're saying the contract doesn't matter."
Price says 83 customers have filed complaints since August. On average, each person is out $3,200. "This is a Texas-based company that doesn't even have a Texas DMV license," said Price.
The address for the company's corporate headquarters is a non-descript warehouse on a pothole-filled street within sight of Six Flags. The office at 3006 Avenue E appears vacant, with a "for lease" sign in the window. The company actually operates out of the office and warehouse next door. A white couch along with a table and chairs fill the small office space but there isn't a mailbox or other identifying information.
Employees of nearby businesses say they are often approached by upset customers looking for Presidential. Two men who did not want to be identified told Consumer Justice that rental trucks will show up randomly to load or unload, many times in the evening.
Investigators were told the same thing, according to this report, which details a joint investigation by the Texas DMV and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or FMCSA, which regulates trucking companies.
According to the report, investigators met two employees of Presidential at the Arlington location on October 31, 2017. Phyllis Quincoces-Ricci said she was a customer service manager. Andrey Shuklin said he was the IT Coordinator. Both had flown in from Florida; they claimed the company's owner, Sanjar Fayziyev, was "out of the country."
Among the discrepancies listed in the report:
*Presidential's website says it has a fleet of "around 50" trucks nationwide. The company could only provide information about one truck to the DMV and the agency says the VIN could not be verified.
*Presidential lists its street address as 3006 Avenue E in Arlington but the ZIP code is in Grand Prairie.
*Presidential's website says it has nearly 50 offices and 1,200 employees. Quincoces-Ricci told investigators the Arlington address is the company's only location, along with four warehouses in California, Connecticut, Maryland and Texas.
*Presidential's website says it celebrated 20 years in business in July 2017. The report says the company began operations in August 2017.
The report lists out 256 violations, including delivering shipments late or not at all, charging more than the original estimate, illegal brokering, and misleading advertisements.
The report also found links between Presidential Moving and the following companies: Family Logistics, Independent Van Lines LLC, JBR Underground LLC, Moving National Solutions, National Relocation Solutions, National Relocation Systems LLC, National Relocation Van Lines LLC, President Moving and Storage, Prestige Van Lines LLC, Public Moving Services LLC, Satellite Logistics, Spartan Moving, US Relocation Systems LLC, White House Moving.
The Consumer Justice team found business records linking Shuklin, Quincoces-Ricci, and Fayziyev to these company names as well: Olympus A&S, President A&S, Relomarket, Trident Auto Shipping, Unified V Lines, Unified Van Lines, United National Moving, Your Moving Company, Z's Moving & Shipping.
The report says in December, investigators received an email from the company indicating "that due to the recent increase in complaints... they discovered that an ex-employee had compromised the carrier's files and they were taking steps to correct this."
On February 20, the DMV sent a letter to Presidential Moving Services notifying the company it owed $648,000 in fines. On March 13, Presidential delivered Theresa Riley's belongings.
On March 19, the FMCSA revoked Presidential's operating license. That same day we found an Enterprise rental truck backed up to the warehouse with a driver climbing inside. He told Cristin he worked for Unified Van Lines and did not know about Presidential.
The next day the FMCSA revoked Unified Van Lines' operating license, but the company is apparently still in business. We've found movers at work several times since; all identified themselves as Unified employees. Customers are frustrated because they say nothing's changed. "They can open a new company, get a new DOT number under a new name," said Asbell. "And they start right back up and it's business as usual."
Phyllis Ricci told Consumer Justice that she no longer works for Presidential. Neither Andrey Shuklin nor anyone else at Presidential answered our requests for comment.
A spokesman for Texas DMV told Consumer Justice the agency "does not have authority to put an interstate household goods carrier out of service or to revoke a household goods carrier's interstate operating authority." The agency said it shared its findings with the Texas Attorney General's Office. The Attorney General's Office had no comment.
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