The president of a set of Florida moving companies has been
sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for his role in a household moving scheme
that bilked more than 1,000 customers out of more than $1.8 million.
Yair Malol, owner and president of Majesty Moving and
Storage, America’s Best Movers, My Best Movers and Apollo Van Lines along with
a number of employees were sentenced at the end of January.
On Sept. 2, 2004, a federal jury found the defendants guilty
for their participation in the “charged household moving scheme,” according to
an Office of Inspector General press release.
According to the OIG release, Malol’s scheme started with
low estimates given to potential customers.
Once one of Malol’s companies were hired, employees of the
company showed up at the customer’s home, packed up their stuff 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,” according to the press release.
According to the OIG release, once everything was loaded
onto the truck, employees “fraudulently inflated” the total price of the move,
often by thousands of dollars. The employees would tell customers their stuff
took up more cubic feet than originally estimated. The release said company
employees also overcharged customers for packing materials.
When customers contacted the company wanting their stuff
delivered, Malol demanded full payment of the inflated price before delivery,
the release stated.
In many cases, Malol and another company employee ignored
customers’ repeated complaints about the inflated prices. In some cases, the
press release said, customers were provided false information about the
delivery of their goods.
And when customers refused to pay the inflated price,
company employees arranged to warehouse the customers’ belongings and refused
to tell them the location.
Company employees threatened to sell or auction off
customers’ household goods and personal items if payment was not received
within a certain period of time, according to the OIG release. In some cases,
Majesty Moving and Storage, America’s Best Movers, My Best Movers and Apollo
Van Lines refused to adequately pay customers for any damaged or undelivered
items, the release stated.
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-year conspiracy with more
than 1,000 victims.
In addition to the prison sentence and supervised release,
Malol 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 prison term, he is ordered to return to his home country, Israel.
An employee of Malol’s, Jennifer Tafuri Vakin, was sentenced
to six months in prison and three years of 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