U.S. Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 31, 2002
MOVING COMPANY OWNERS WHO PLED GUILTY TO DEFRAUDING CUSTOMERS
BANNED FROM MOVING INDUSTRY AND SENTENCED TO JAIL; PROCESS OF
RETURNING MONEY AND PROPERTY AND SETTLING INSURANCE CLAIMS OF
OVER 150 VICTIMS CONTINUES
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown today announced that
three owners of five unlicenced moving companies who pled guilty to
defrauding their customers by demanding excessive cash payments on
moving day and wrongfully seizing and holding hostage household
goods of customers who refused to pay the additional charges have
been sentenced to jail terms and banned from the moving business.
They have also been warned that if they violate the ban they will
receive longer terms of incarceration in prison.
The District Attorney said that State Transportation
Department officials had advised him that the case represented the
first prosecution in New York State of movers in which movers have
been sentenced to jail terms, restitution and a blanket ban from
the moving industry in connection with defrauding moving customers.
District Attorney Brown said, "The defendants have been jailed
for luring customers with false promises of low-cost moves,
demanding exorbitant additional charges on moving day and carting
away and holding for ransom household possessions of customers who
refused to pay additional fees. They have agreed to get out of the
moving industry and are cooperating with prosecutors who are
continuing to work to ensure that the victims of the scheme get
restitution and insurance settlements for the money and property
that was unlawfully taken from them."
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said, "These criminals
thought that they could take advantage of people by keeping their
possessions and charging outrageous sums of money for their return.
But officers from our Intelligence Division have ended their
devious scheme and brought everyone who was involved to justice."
State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph H.
Boardman said, "These sentences send a strong message that illegal
activities by licensed movers will not be tolerated. The
Department, under the direction of Governor Pataki, will continue
the state and local partnership, working together to protect
consumers from unscrupulous movers."
Federal Department of Transportation Inspector General Kenneth
M. Mead said, "Once again I would like to commend District Attorney
Brown and the local, state and federal law enforcement agencies for
a job well done. It reinforces our message to those who would take
advantage of consumers that their actions will not be tolerated."
Inspector General Mead again urged consumers to learn more
about their rights through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Administration's web site at
. Person believing
they have been victimized can call the FMCSA's toll free consumer
hotline at 1-888-DOT-SADFT (1-888-368-7238).
The victims include about 100 individuals who were given a low
estimate by the defendants and later were forced by them to pay a
higher amount to obtain the release of their property and who
subsequently filed complaints between November 2001 and June 2002
with the Queens District Attorney's office, the New York State
Department of Transportation or the United States Department of
Transportation as well as 50 individuals whose property has been
stored in a warehouses in Jamaica, Nevada and Texas which the
defendants had refused to release and which has been returned to
the victims under the terms of the plea agreement.
Victims who were forced to pay higher amounts are slated to
receive restitution in amounts based upon a division of the
defendants' assets after they have been liquidated and could amount
to a minimum of 75% of each actual loss. Individuals who filed
complaints to the state and federal Departments of Transportation
and/or the Queens District Attorney prior to July 31, 2002 have
been placed on a list of victims.
District Attorney Brown said, "The prosecution of the
defendants should serve as fair warning to others within the moving
industry who would contemplate a similar shakedown scheme that law
enforcement authorities are vigilant and determined to take swift
and certain steps against wrongdoers."
District Attorney Brown identified the defendants as Daniel
Mantoza, 37, his wife, Ronit Mantoza, 35, both of 148-47 61st Road
in Flushing, Queens and their associate, Morad Alfar, 32, of 196-36
50th Avenue in Fresh Meadows, Queens. Their companies included
Allstate Moving and Storage, On Budget Van Lines and Eilid Moving
and Storage of 131-11 Atlantic Avenue in Jamaica as well as Online
Moving and Storage and In & Out Moving and Storage at 1940 Deer
Park Avenue in Deer Park in Suffolk County.
According to the State Department of Transportation, the
guilty pleas by defendant Ronit Mantoza and the five companies
represented the first instance in New York in which a moving
company or an owner of a moving company was convicted of a felony.
The defendants have been sentenced before Criminal Court Judge
Dorothy Chin-Brandt. Ronit Mantoza who pled guilty to Attempted
Enterprise Corruption, a felony, has been sentenced to three months
in jail and five years probation. Daniel Mantoza and Morad Alfar
who pled guilty to Scheme to Defraud in the Second Degree, a
misdemeanor, have been sentenced to two months in jail and three
years probation. Afar also was sentenced to perform 210 hours of
The defendants admitted that they gave individuals low
estimates for moves which they never intended to honor and that on
moving day after they loaded a customer's property onto their
trucks and had it in their control demanded a price three to five
times higher than the previously quoted amount and then threatened
to withhold the property if they were not paid and in many cases,
did withhold the property.
District Attorney Brown said that under existing law a
licensed moving company is permitted to collect on the day of a
move up to an additional 10% of the original estimate for
interstate moves and up to an additional 25% for intrastate moves.
While the law allows licensed movers to retain a portion of
the items moved to protect their lien, it prohibits movers from
withholding delivery of all moved items pending resolution of fee
As a result of the prosecution, the defendants have also
agreed to forfeit all property seized from them by authorities at
the time of their arrest, including cash, jewelry, cars and trucks
which will be sold at auction and the proceeds then used for
restitution to victims.
In addition the defendants have agreed to:
- submit all damage and loss claims to their insurance
company, Baker Insurance, prior to sentencing;
- release all property in their possession or under their
control to consumers who will not be charged for storage fees or outstanding amounts;
- dissolve all of their moving, storage and trucking
businesses within 30 days of the date of their sentencing;
- not work in, own, have any interest in or advertise,
directly or indirectly, in any interstate or intrastate moving business.
District Attorney Brown said, "The plea agreement does not
preclude consumers or others from suing the defendants or pursuing
other civil remedies nor does it bar state and federal agencies
from levying civil penalties and fines which are not discharge able
The District Attorney explained that the State Department of
Transportation regulates moves within New York and that the Federal
Department of Transportation regulates moves to and from other
District Attorney Brown expressed his appreciation to New York
Police Department Intelligence Division Detective William Whelan
and Sergeant Michael Liberator who were supervised by Deputy Chief
Edmund Hartnett, Inspector John W. Cutter, Captain Francis Darsillo
and Lieutenant John Billet; State Department of Transportation
Investigators John Van Tassell and Jonathan NiCastro who were
supervised by Counsel Robert Rybak under Commissioner Joseph
Boardman; and United States Department of Transportation Office of
Inspector General Special Agent Matthew Farrugia and Investigator
Anthony Jacaruso who were supervised by Special Agent in Charge Ned
Schwartz. District Attorney Brown also commended the assistance of
the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration of the United
States Department of Transportation.
The case is being handled by Assistant District Attorneys
Diane M. Peress and Allen L. Bode and Consumer Representative
Michael Albanesi of the District Attorney's Economic Crimes Bureau
under the supervision of Bureau Chief Brian J. Mich; Assistant
District Attorneys Anthony M. Communiello and David S. Zadnoff of
the District Attorney's Civil Forfeiture Bureau and Lieutenant
Robert Burke of the District Attorney's Detective Squad under the
supervision of Chief Edward T. Brady and Deputy Chief Lawrence J.
Festa under the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District
Attorney for Investigations Peter A. Crusco, Deputy Executive
Assistant District Attorney Michael J. Mansfield and Investigations
Counsel Linda M. Cantoni.
Note to Editors: An e-version of this press release is posted on the QDA website at
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