3OYS uncovers moving mayhem in Mesa

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

MESA, Ariz -- It was a dramatic scene in the East Valley when J.J. Stroh, an officer with the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures, confronted a pair of movers.

Weights and Measures along with Mesa police raided the moving truck and the two men driving it. Vanessa Mendes hired the movers.

"We're not really sure what's going on, what they have on the truck," she said.

Mendes and her boyfriend, Jerry, never imagined that their cross-country move would erupt into this kind of chaos.

"This has been such a nightmare," Mendes said.

Their nightmare began in November after booking United National Moving and Storage to take their things from Pennsylvania to Mesa. After all of their things were packed up, Mendes said everything fell apart.

"The original estimate was for $4,700 and when they came to pick it up it was $12,400," she said.

Not only did the price change, United Moving and Storage changed the estimate on how much space was needed on the truck. The original estimate was 1,085 cubic feet.

"They told me I had 2,300 cubic feet, so you're telling me I doubled all my belongings that I told you I had?" she said.
"You know, one of the rights that you have is to not be ripped off by out-of-state companies, who really make a living by doing something like this," said Shawn Marquez with the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures. 

Marquez calls these kind of scams "hostage loads," movers who hold your stuff hostage while they try extorting your money. 

"If you are going to do this kind of stuff, shake down people, hold their stuff hostage, expect to see us and you know, when we hit, it hurts," Marquez said. "You're not going to go anywhere, we're going to block you in, until this is settled correctly and legally."

It was 55 days before the couple got their belongings.

"Really excited but also nervous," Mendes said. "I'm hoping everything's there. I'm hoping that it's in OK shape." 

While they did have to reassemble some of their things, they were able to account for everything loaded in Pennsylvania -- a silver lining considering Mendes says she was told, "The guys that brought the stuff apparently are not even movers. They were just told by this company, oh, we have this really easy job for you you're going that way anyway just drop off the stuff."

They were lucky they got their stuff back, but Marquez worries others may not be so lucky.

“I would fully expect without pause or hesitation that we're going to start seeing more companies, more companies from back East, taking advantage of people trying to move to Arizona," he said. "Fully expect it."

For tips on how not to get ripped off when you move locally or across the nation, go to the American Moving & Storage Association found at www.moving.org. The website is full of information and can even help you locate a reputable moving company.