The owner of a number of moving companies admitted in court Wednesday that he forced clients to pay him more than originally agreed rates by holding their belongings hostage, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Clifton resident Rami Zubidat, 31, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He is scheduled to be sentenced in November.
Zubidat and his co-conspirators extorted hundreds of clients by first enticing them with lowball rates for moving services. Then, on the day of the move, once clients’ belongings were loaded on company trucks, Zubidat and his co-conspirators would demand up to four times more than the previously agreed-to price to complete the move.
Authorities say the difference between the original estimates and the amounts ultimately paid by the victims totaled more than a million dollars.
Zubidat last year was also charged along with other co-conspirators with using the moving companies in a check-kiting scheme, opening accounts with Citibank and Capital One in the companies' names.
Zabidat and others were accused of writing checks against one account, knowing it had insufficient funds, and cashing those checks at banks where the companies had other accounts, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Inspector General.
Zubidat and the others created several companies, including Moving Systems Corp., Global Relocation Inc., North Eastern Van Lines Corp., Jet Moving Systems Corp., Horizon Moving Systems Inc., and Integrity Moving Systems Corp. The companies were based in Clifton and then later Moonachie.
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