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U.S. Attorney: Elmwood Park Bait-And-Switch Movers Held Customers' Goods Hostage

U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Craig Carpenito
U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Craig Carpenito Photo Credit: COURTESY: Law.com

The owners of an Elmwood Park moving company pulled bait-and-switches on helpless customers -- holding their valuables hostage -- before federal agents busted them, authorities said.

For three years, Lola Larios 36, of Haledon, and Lior Atiyas, 42, of Long Island, took advantage of customers who “were in a vulnerable state and unable to refuse their demands,” U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said.

Larios and Atiyas – using the names “Michelle Jacobs” and “David Cohen” – gave customers low-ball quotes, then jacked up the prices two to three times after the valuables were loaded onto their Premier Relocations trucks, Carpenito said.

They then “refused to deliver the goods until the customers paid the increased price,” the U.S. attorney said.

The combined total difference between the initial estimates and the revised amounts charged was estimated at more than $400,000, he said.

Both Larios and Atiyas are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Carpenito credited special agents with the Department of Transportation, Office of the Inspector General, with the investigation leading to the charges.

Handling the case for the government is Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Amore of Carpenito’s Public Protection Unit in Newark.

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Advice for Consumers:

Before hiring a mover, review the tips available from the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.

They include:

• Call the Division of Consumer Affairs at (973) 504-6422 to verify the license status of any mover you consider hiring, and to ask whether consumer complaints have been submitted against the mover;

• Obtain a written estimate from the mover you select. The cost can be estimated on an hourly rate, by weight and miles traveled, or by cubic measurement;

• Never pack jewelry, money, or valuable documents with your goods to be moved. The mover is not responsible for items of extraordinary value;

• Check your goods as they are being delivered. If any are lost or damaged, notify the mover immediately. A damage claim can be filed up to 90 days after the move date;

• Unless you purchase additional coverage, the mover is required to compensate you only up to $1 per pound, per article, for damages.

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