YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A Paramus father and son who operated a Fair Lawn moving company artificially lowballed estimates to customers and then threatened to hold onto their possession when they didn’t immediately pay higher rates — sometimes double — in cash or through a money order, state authorities charged this morning.
Adam Eliad, 32 (inset, above), and Oziel Eliad, 60, of Moving Max Inc. are named in a 10-count complaint filed in Hackensack 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 are asking a judge to ban both permanently from the moving industry and boost the fines against them to as high as $250,000 for violating terms of a February 2007 consent agreement related to a former moving company they owned, state Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said this morning.
Created late last summer — and closed this past April — Moving Max touted online prices of $225 to $921 for a move, the attorney general 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 accuses 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. “We intend to get the money used to pay for these illegal fees back to consumers and to hold the defendants accountable for their actions.”
Lee said the Division of Consumer Affairs has received 15 consumer complaints against Moving Max.
Collective consumer restitution is estimated at $12,772, resulting from the overcharges that the consumers claim to have paid.
The Division is seeking enhanced civil penalties of up to $20,000 for each violation of the Consumer Fraud Act and up to $5,000 for each violation of the Public Movers and Warehousemen Licensing Act.
In 2007, the Eliads 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.
Deputy Attorney General Patricia Schiripo, Assistant chief of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section in the Division of Law, is representing the state. DCA Investigator Vincent Buonanno made the case.