WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - With any long distance move you can choose to either move everything yourself or hire a company to do the heavy lifting for you.
For one Wilmington woman, hiring professionals seemed like the best way to make her move from Wilmington to New Jersey.
They promised professional packing and a price that couldn't be beat, but the real cost was literally everything she owned.
All of her belongings were sold at an auction and what happened to her could happen to you.
Last summer Trish Torkildsen needed a place to store her things until her new house was ready. She quickly found a moving company online, JYS Movers out of Florida.
They promised to keep her furniture and boxes at a Wilmington storage unit, so she signed the moving contract and handed over her things.
The movers signed a contract too, but for a storage rental. The unit was in JYS' name, not Trish's, at Carolina Storage in Wilmington. Trish never knew the location of the storage unit, she just knew her things were somewhere in town.
The movers were paying $100 per month on the unit, but were sending bills to Trish for nearly three times that amount.
In December, JYS stopped sending bills and stopped answering the phone.
"I got really nervous something in my gut said, 'this is not right,'" said Trish.
JYS cashed Trish's checks, but never paid the rent. When letter and calls to the company went unanswered, Carolina Storage auctioned off what they thought was JYS' belongings.
The next time her phone rang, it was a buyer from the auction where Trish's life had just been sold.
"He said, 'Honey, all your stuff got auctioned off,'" said Trish. "'We opened up that door and saw how nice your stuff was and it was like mayhem.'"
The biggest bidder was Rocco Campagna, an owner of Carolina Storage. The auctioneer, who wants to remain anonymous, said that he bought most of Trish's things for only $900.
Bidders said they'd never seen an owner buying at his own auction. It seems odd, but it is legal.
Campagna refuses to say why he went or what he did with what he bought.
JYS movers has also refused to answer questions, although they did acknowledge missing their payment.
Moving manager Lisa Rosado would not agree to an interview but issued a statement that is difficult to understand.
"We never thought that because [of] missing one payment, that they [would] auction her stuff [off]," said Rosado. "We believe that Trish even knew were [her] stuff was. She maybe has [her] things all along, after all she is the customer, and the customer is always right, no?"
Complaints have been filed with the Florida Attorney General. One of JYS' customers who's also missing items calls her experience a terrible nightmare and warns to not use the moving company.
123.movers.com is an online consumer moving source that has a list of customer gripes, including a customer who calls choosing JYS a wrong decision, saying my stuff has a lot of damage and is missing.
Experts say moving companies are often a major source of consumer complaints.
"Nationwide, movers stay in the top twenty of complaint activity," said Coastal Carolina BBB CEO Kathy Graham.
"They'll turn around and change the name but they're still in the same location and you'll still here the same names rotating around," said Graham.
Odds and ends are all that remains from the sale of Trish's life. A trail of unanswered questions is all that remains of the moving company, who closed the door on her storage unit then quickly closed up shop.
Both federal and state detectives say because different states have different moving laws, there really isn't much that Trish can do.
As for the moving company - their phone lines are no longer working and just last week the man behind their operation, Eran Still, was arrested by immigration agents and now faces deportion.
Here are some important questions to ask your mover:
If you are using a North Carolina mover, call (919) 733-4036 to see if the mover is "C" certified.
If your mover is from another state, call that state's Department of Consumer Affairs to inquire what the regulations are surrounding movers and whether or not your mover is registered with the state. (not all state's require and or enforce regulation)
If you run into a situation like Trish's, or even close, file a complaint so that detectives can start working! Call 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238). You should also contact your State Attorney General's.
To learn more about North Carolina residents' rights when selecting a mover, click here.
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