YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Eighteen customers are to be reimbursed and a Paramus father and son who operated a Fair Lawn moving company that artificially lowballed estimates to customers and then threatened to hold onto their possession when they didn’t immediately pay higher rates in cash or money order can never do business in New Jersey again.
The terms are outlined in a final consent judgment in Superior Court in Hackensack against Moving Max Inc., state authorities announced this morning.
Adam Eliad (inset, above) and Oziel Eliad, 60 were named in a 10-count complaint filed last July charging them with several violations of the state Public Movers and Warehousemen Licensing Act and its related regulations, as well as New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act.
State authorities noted that the pair violated terms of a February 2007 consent agreement related to a former moving company they owned.
Created late in the summer of 2013 — and closed last April — Moving Max touted online prices of $225 to $921 for a move, state Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said.
But after loading consumers’ property onto a truck, they demanded payments of $500 to $1,665, he said.
Hoffman said the costs included exorbitant and bogus charges that hadn’t been disclosed or discussed beforehand — such as “unnecessary packing, use of tape and blankets that were not actually necessary or used, carrying furniture on stairs, travel time,” and other fees.
When customers complained, the Moving Max operators “threatened to drive off and retain the consumers’ personal belongings until payment was made by cash or money order,” he said.
The complaint also accused the pair of failing to conduct physical pre-move inspections of the consumers’ belongings; not giving consumers a copy of the state-mandated brochure, “Important Notice to Consumers Using Public Movers”; intentionally concealing contractual forms so consumers could be pressured to sign without being able to read them; and failing to provide written estimates.
“Many felt they had no choice but to pay these excessive and predatory fees,” Acting Consumer Affairs Director Steve Lee said.
Lee said the DCA received 15 consumer complaints against Moving Max as of last summer.
The Eliads in 2007 signed a $50,000 consent agreement with the state not to conduct “unfair or deceptive acts” after authorities uncovered a similar scheme at their former company, A Professional Movers, Lee explained.
“Consumers who were victimized by the Eliads will have their hard-earned money returned to them,” Hoffman said today. “We’re also protecting consumers who in the future may need to hire a moving company by barring the Eliads from the moving and warehouse industry in New Jersey.”
A remaining $347,622 in civil penalties and investigative costs and attorneys’ fees are tentatively suspended because the Eliads don’t have the money, state authorities said.
Both are required to submit state and federal tax returns to the Division of Consumer Affairs for the next five years, Hoffman noted. If either reaches certain income levels, payment of the suspended civil penalties and cost and fee reimbursements must begin.
Deputy Attorney General Patricia Schiripo, Assistant chief of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section in the Division of Law, represented the state. DCA Investigator Vincent Buonanno assembled the case.