Investigation reveals company accused of overcharging, holding property ‘hostage’
DENVER — Moving can be stressful and finding the right company to help you move your personal belongings can be nerve-racking.
Many consumers turn to online review sites to help them decide who to hire, but FOX31 Denver has received tips about one Denver metro area moving company and after doing some checking of our own, we found out the owners are facing several criminal charges.
Jacob Krause hired Mafia Movers last September after checking out their reviews on the site Yelp. “When you first look at Yelp they have like three-and-a-half star or four-star rating.” He says that was good enough to have the company move him a few miles to his new apartment off Downing Street.
Krause said everything seemed alright, until he noticed his credit card bill. He claimed Mafia Movers overcharged his credit card by $200. “Initially they said, oh yeah, we know you got overcharged. I’ll fix it for you and then I never heard anything and never saw anything.
He tried to work it out with Mafia Movers but he said the owners never refunded his money so he had to dispute the charge with his credit card company.
Moving companies in Colorado are regulated by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. According to records providd by the P.U.C. Mafia Movers also goes by the name Gentle Hands. In the last two years six complaints were investigated by the state agency.
Records obtained by the FOX31 Denver I-Team found the owners failed to get a required registration with the agency in 2012, they also failed to register with the Colorado Secretary of State and then the owners were given a warning for not having the proper insurance back in February. After receiving warnings from the PUC, the owners Ben Aberle and Do Lundhaul resolved the issues.
But the pair is now facing more serious allegations by the Adams County District Attorney. The D.A. claims Aberle and Lundhaul tried to influence a public official and forged a document related to a move the company did last September.
Stephanie Renter told criminal prosecutors that Mafia Movers was hired to pack up her spa business from her strip mall in Adams County, but after trucking her tanning beds and equipment, she alleges the movers demanded $2,600, three times the quoted price.
She spoke exclusively with FOX31 Denver Investigative Reporter Tak Landrock about the move, “I was just in tears, in tears and he (mover) came over to me and said, ‘he (owner) wants me to leave with your stuff now.’”
She said the movers drive off with her property and still haven’t given it back.
In the original contract Mafia Movers gave Renter, the company failed to indicate a final price in the total amount due section of her contract. According to the PUC, it was only after Renter’s move and after the state agency began its investigation that the owners wrote in a final price.
FOX31 Denver gave the owners of Mafia Movers several opportunities to speak on the record about the criminal allegation against them. Both Aberle and Lundahul refused to do an interview with FOX31 Denver saying they would need to consult with their attorney. Both owners were given another opportunity to issue a statement for this story. While they said they would, neither man emailed or sent a statement to FOX31 Denver.
The Better Business Bureau of Denver says Mafia Movers earned a “D” rating for 14 complaints in the last 12 months; many remain unresolved by the consumer agency.
Megan Herrera with the BBB said the biggest mistake consumers make when hiring a moving company is not getting a proper estimate. “When it comes to getting an estimate, they really need to come and do estimates in person. Don’t take an estimate over the phone,” Herrera said.
She recommends you get three estimates and after you pick the moving company you are going with, review the contract and make sure you get an estimate in writing. She suggests having the company circle the final price for the move before any work is done.
Herrera says any issues that come up that could affect the final price and outcome need to be clearly spelled out as to how they will be handled.
The PUC will help you with complaints concerning instate movers. You can call them between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday at the PUC Consumer Line at 303-894-2070 or 1-800-456-0858, if calling outside the Denver metro area, but within Colorado.
If you have a complaint about a mover from another state you need to contact the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration at 1-888-DOT-SAFT (368-7238).