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Call Kurtis: Rogue Movers Busted

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) -- There are new developments in a month's-long Call Kurtis investigation into fraudulent moving companies.

In October, Kurtis Ming and his crew went undercover hoping to catch them in-the-act -- and they did.

We wanted to expose this notorious company, to warn consumers and hold authorities accountable.

 Authorities agreed that this "rogue mover" was ripping off customers, yet it did not appear they were doing anything to stop them, until now.

"Why am I on camera?" asked Alex as our cameraman walked into this home, recording. "Alex, I'm Kurtis Ming from CBS13... when did $328 become $638 for a move?"

 Alex is the man-in-charge of this move.

"Can you answer that?"

He walks away, and directs his crew to "close everything up."

Kurtis continued his questioning while Alex and the other three movers pack up the trucks equipment: "This is all of our stuff, what are you going to do with it?  Is this your m.o.?  [Do] you make people sign blank contracts and then you rip them off when you get to their house?"

  A week earlier one of our producers posed as a homeowner in need of a move.

She called Stevens Move, at the time they were based in San Jose.

 It's a company that's been on our radar for three years, under a number of different names.

 They showed up to our house which was staged to look like it's been lived-in.

The truck's logo said "Bekins" although they're not the Bekins known nationally for more than a hundred years.

Using four hidden cameras we watched them wrap and load a small collection of furniture, appliances, and other random household goods.

 In less than an hour they emptied our house and packed the goods onto their truck.

 Half an hour on the road, they arrived at our other house.

 That's when Alex told our producer that initial quote they gave her over the phone was going to change.

"So what is my grand total?  Your total is $638.60 but if you pay me cash it's going to be $44 less."

  That's double our quote.

"What if I can't pay this today?  What do you guys do? I mean," asked our producer, and Alex responded as we expected him to: "We take your stuff."

"And so basically they're gonna hold my stuff hostage" asked our producer.

 And that's how fraudulent moving companies extort money out of unsuspecting customers.

"$2,200 worth of boxes, there's no way" said Kim Salas.

"They took it. They hijacked it to parts unknown.  I still don't know where they went" commented Mike Applegate.

"'You pay now or we don't unload,' as simple as that" remembered Sunnyu Vito.

They're only three of the many upset customers of Stevens Move, a company that's gone by nearly two dozen aliases.

They've all filed complaints with the moving industry's regulator, the Public Utilities Commission.

 But over the past three years, the PUC has refused to go on camera to talk tell us what they're doing about it.

 So our producer attended their October public meeting.

"We have been told that we cannot get comment from the PUC, so what i'm doing today is requesting in person."

"…Mr. Clark would you just talk to the gentleman for a minute or two outside," commanded the PUC chairman.

  Richard Clark, director of the PUC's Consumer Protection Division talked but didn't say much.

Our original story aired two weeks later, and got a lot of attention.

"Well, we did what you did. We stung 'em" says Santa Clara Assistant D.A. Ken Rosenblatt; he claims they have been stinging this company over the past year.

  He's now prosecuting five people they busted in January.

"A lot of people are involved in this. There are a few companies with a lot of different aliases; some of the same players keep appearing over and over again."

 And it appears that Eran Bar could be the boss man; his name comes up repeatedly as company president.

 He and the others are now being blamed for losses related to seven consumers.

"So you have extortion, you have theft, you have attempted extortion, essentially these folks are in a lot of trouble" says Rosenblatt.

 He also says images taken at one of the stings show how they bubble wrap everything to inflate costs.

"And what you didn't know when they were doing that is they were going to charge you outrageous prices that you'd never agreed to."

Rosenblatt also defends state and local agencies against claims that no one was doing anything about these rogue movers.

"There was something being done.  We just couldn't blab about it."

  In the three years we've investigated rogue movers, an undetermined number of consumers have lost money, house-loads of belongings, family heirlooms, and irreplaceable items.

"What can you say about these people?  They're scumbags" says Applegate.

 Back to Kurtis Ming and his confrontation with Alex.

"...You got nothing to say? You just gonna take off down the road with all of our stuff?"

 Stevens Move left with all of our belongings on their truck; where it ended up we don't know.

 But one thing is more certain now.

"We're watching," declares Rosenblatt. "And now we're acting."

 The District Attorney says more arrests may be coming.

 If you feel you've been victimized by Stevens Move or any other rogue moving company, you can file a complaint with the Santa Clara District Attorney.

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