31 January 2005 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – Marcos Daniel Jiménez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Michael S. Clemens, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Barbara L. Barnet, Special Agent in Charge, United States Department of Transportation, Office of the Inspector General, announced today that on Friday, January 28, 2005, defendants, Yair Malol, owner and president of Majesty Moving and Storage, America’s Best Movers, My Best Movers, and Apollo Van Lines, and Jennifer Tafuri Vakin, a claims representative and secretary for Majesty Moving and Storage, and American Best Movers, were sentenced by United States District Court Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga, in Miami, Florida, in connection with a household moving scheme that lured customers into doing business with the companies by offering low estimates and then fraudulently inflating the price of the move and withholding delivery of their goods until customers paid the inflated price.
Defendant Malol was sentenced to a term of twelve and a half years’ imprisonment and three (3) years’ supervised release. Defendant Malol also was ordered to forfeit his interest in various assets, including his residence, and bank accounts totaling in excess of $115,000. Upon the completion of Malol’s imprisonment, he was ordered to return to his native Israel. Defendant Tafuri-Vakin was sentenced to a term of six (6) months’ imprisonment and three (3) years’ supervised release. Majesty Moving and Storage, America’s Best Movers, My Best Movers, and Apollo Van Lines no longer operate as shippers of household goods in interstate commerce.
On September 2, 2004, a federal jury found the defendants guilty based upon their participation in the charged household moving scheme. Specifically, Malol represented to the public that Majesty Moving and Storage, America’s Best Movers, My Best Movers, and Apollo Van Lines, based in Plantation, Florida, were reputable and long-established moving companies. Malol provided low moving estimates to customers to induce them to hire the companies to move their goods. Once customers retained the company, the company’s employees arrived at customers’ homes, packed customers’ belongings in a moving truck, and rushed customers through the paperwork, causing them to sign blank or incomplete bills of lading and other documents, and failing to inform them of the total price of the move. Once the customers’ goods were loaded onto the moving truck, employees fraudulently inflated the total price of the move, often by thousands of dollars, claiming that customers’ goods occupied more cubic feet than had been originally estimated and by overcharging the customers for packing materials. When contacted by customers requesting the delivery of their goods, Malol demanded full payment of the inflated price before delivery of the goods.
In many cases, Malol and Tafuri-Vakin ignored customers’ repeated complaints about the inflated price and/or provided false information to customers about the delivery of their goods. When customers refused to pay the inflated price, company employees arranged to warehouse customers’ goods and refused to divulge the location of the goods to customers. Employees threatened to sell or auction off customers’ household goods and personal items if payment was not received within a certain period of time. In some cases, Majesty Moving and Storage, America’s Best Movers, My Best Movers, and Apollo Van Lines refused to adequately compensate customers for any damaged or undelivered items. The overall amount of fraud attributed to Majesty Moving and Storage, America’s Best Movers, My Best Movers, and Apollo Van Lines amounted to approximately $1.8 million over the course of the two (2) year conspiracy with well over 1000 victims.