By Daniel Massey
A Richmond Hill moving company held hostage oxygen machines and other medical equipment belonging to a seriously ill customer, demanding $2,300 more than the original estimate to complete a move from Long Island to Georgia, a Long Island woman said.
Owners of the company, which allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients by lowballing them and then holding their furniture for ransom, were scheduled to appear in court March 27 to answer charges of enterprise corruption, grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property, said a spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
But Joyce Forgue, of Deer Park, L.I., said she knew the company, was up to no good well before investigators executed a search warrant and seized trucks, computers and more than $500,000 worth of furniture from its Atlantic Avenue warehouse. The company was unlicensed and operated under five different names, the DA said.
The action by investigators came too late as far as she and her family are concerned, she said.
“It showed me I was right more than a year and half ago, and nobody did anything to prevent this unscrupulous company from operating,” she said.
Enticed by a Value-Pak advertisement, Forgue hired Eilid Moving and Storage to move her daughter and son-in-law from Deer Park to Buford, Ga. in November 2000.
But the company held the family’s belongings hostage until she shelled out $3,275 to complete a move for which she had originally received a quote of $975, according to receipts she supplied to the TimesLedger.
Forgue said she had to pay the extra money because medical equipment her ill son-in-law needed was among the items being held for ransom by the company, one of the five movers that operated as a single entity out of a warehouse at 131-11 Atlantic Ave. in Richmond Hill. She made two separate credit card payments to Eilid, one for $1,000 and the other for $1,300.
“There were oxygen machines on the truck,” she said. “What are you going to do?”
After trying unsuccessfully to recoup the money through her credit card company, Forgue took Eilid Moving and Storage to civil court in February 2001, seeking $2,000 in damages. Eilid’s owners did not show up, but sent a representative who Forgue said could not make decisions for the company and who “knew nothing” about its operations.
An arbitrator ruled on Forgue’s behalf, saying Eilid had to pay her $1,015, according to a notice of judgment filed in Queens Civil Court.
But Forgue was unable to get the movers to comply with the binding court order. Attempts to involve the city marshal’s office went nowhere, she said, and she still has not been repaid.
Then on Feb. 12, investigators executed a search warrant at the company’s headquarters. It was unclear how much of the property they seized from the Atlantic Avenue warehouse was allegedly being held for ransom, the DA said.
Mike Albanesi, a consumer fraud representative from the Queens district attorney’s office, said he was working to get restitution for the alleged victims of the Richmond Hill movers.
His office has received 200 complaints against the movers since charges against them became public Feb. 13, he said. “And more to come,” he added.
A possible timetable for the distribution of compensation, which would most likely be paid out of assets seized from the defendants, hinges upon the prosecution of co-owners Daniel Mantoza, 37, and his wife, Ronit Mantoza, 35, both of 148-47 67th Rd., Flushing; and co-owner Morad Alfar, 32, of 196-36 50th Ave., Fresh Meadows, Albanesi said.
If the case ultimately goes to trial, restitution may be delayed, he said.
Meanwhile, Forgue doubts she will get back any of the $2,300 she lost to the Richmond Hill movers, funds she said would mean a lot to her daughter and son-in-law.
“They don’t have a lot of money,” she said. “He is a sick person. They were moving to better his health.”
Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.