3OYS: Valley woman says moving company vanished with her belongings

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Moving can be nerve-racking. But imagine your moving company packing up your items and then hiding them from you.

Tracy Compher says she had no idea where her stuff was, but if she wanted to find out, she was going to have to pay up.

So, what does the moving company have to say?

"When you walk out like this, this looks really bad," 3 On Your Side's Gary Harper told John Negrete.

Why didn't Negrete want to talk? Maybe because he didn't like what we had to say, or possibly, it was because we brought up bad memories.

"It says you're on supervised parole," Harper said.

"I'm not on parole," Negrete replied.

“No? This isn't you?” Harper asked, displaying a photo from the Arizona Department of Corrections.

“That's a terrible picture of me," Negrete replied.

The photo is of John Negrete, an ex-convict who, according to state records, now runs a company called Arizona Move For Less. It's the very company Compher says she hired to move and "store" her belongings.

"I recently lost my job, and because I worked for property management, I lived on site," she said. "So I moved off site and put my things into storage."

And that's how she came across Arizona Move For Less, which, according to Compher, quoted her $96 per hour for the move.

But after Arizona Move for Less picked up all of her things, she says the movers drove them to a storage facility, which has absolutely nothing to do with Arizona Move For Less, and unloaded her items without her knowing it.

Apparently, Arizona Move For Less rented out a storage shed and put Compher's stuff inside. The movers even put their own pad lock on the shed.

"I got a phone call the next day from the driver himself saying, 'Something's not right. Did the company call you?' I said, 'I don't know what you're talking about. Can you tell me what's going on?' And he said, 'They asked me to put your things in a different location in my name and I didn't think that was right,' ” Compher recalled.

Having no idea where her items were actually being stored, she contacted Arizona Move For Less.

She says the company agreed to remove her items from that undisclosed location but for a price.

"They were claiming that I owe $662.40," Compher said.

She was floored because she was anticipating only about $200 for two hours worth of work.

“I've always been willing to pay for the service. I just want to see my stuff because it's not where I agreed for it to go to," Compher said.

Furious, she filed a police report saying Arizona Move For Less stole her goods.

She also contacted 3 On Your Side.

“I'm just, ugh, I don't know what to do," she said.

Arizona Move For Less doesn't appear to have a physical location, and the company parks its trucks in various high-traffic areas for advertisement.

So, a 3 On Your Side producer set up on one of those trucks, and we waited. Finally, we caught up with one of the managers, who didn't want to talk about Compher's items.

"What's the deal? Are you holding her stuff hostage?" our producer asked.

“Nobody's holding nothing," the manager replied.

Well, that manager sped off. He and Negrete later showed up in our studio claiming they wanted to talk but then changed their minds.

"When you walk out like this, this looks really bad," Harper said.

Negrete claimed he had every right to hold Compher's stuff hostage in an undisclosed storage facility because the $200 she was going to pay wasn't enough for the work they did and he wanted more. But it all just didn’t seem to add up.

"When you have people's stuff locked up in a truck, that makes me real suspicious," Harper said. "And when you don't know where the truck is and you have possession of it, that makes me real suspicious. And then when you just vanish like vapor, that makes me real suspicious. The whole thing looks really weird."

In the end, after 3 On Your Side's involvement, Arizona Move For Less did release Compher's items and she retrieved everything from that storage facility.
She says it's been an emotional situation, but she's glad 3 On Your Side was able to get her stuff back.

"Until yesterday afternoon when your team helped me to recover my things, I hadn't even seen my things to know that they were actually there," she said.

If you’re planning a move, here are some things to consider:

-Always get your moving estimate in writing.

-Check out your moving company with the Better Business Bureau.

-Get valuable information from the American Moving and Storage Association at www.moving.org.

-If you have a problem with the moving company, file a complaint with the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures because they regulate the moving industry.