NYC Movers Convicted of Holding Property
NEW YORK (AP) _ Three New York City movers were convicted Friday of holding customers’ possessions hostage until they came up with thousands of dollars more than the price they had been quoted.
Prosecutors said the scheme went on for a decade or more, claiming millions of dollars from hundreds of victims. The movers would quote a price of about $2,000, but would demand up to $10,000 to make delivery once the possessions were on the truck.
Several victims testified against On-Time Van Lines, also known as Starving Students Moving and New Start Moving.
One couple described having a deal to move their possessions from New York to Jacksonville, Fla., for $1,500. After the pickup, the price jumped to $6,800. A year later _ after paying $2,300 _ the property was delivered, much of it damaged and covered with mold, they said.
Another witness said a child’s piggy bank that was stuffed with cash when the movers packed it was returned empty.
The defendants used a ``a blizzard of lies″ to trick their customers, federal prosecutor John Buretta said in closing arguments. ``First, the most basic lie was the estimated price. It was a low-ball _ the low prices is what lured the customers in to begin with.″
The defense claimed the movers were operating within federal rules, and that the additional costs were justified.
Authorities last year arrested the three defendants, as well as a fourth man who pleaded guilty. The defendants face up to seven years in prison.