Tampa couple may have fallen victim to elaborate nationwide moving scheme

TAMPA — A dozen people connected to various moving companies were indicted in Ohio. The United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Ohio unsealed an indictment Tuesday that charged the people with conspiring in a racketeering enterprise to defraud customers through their moving companies.

"This nationwide hostage moving scam ends today," said U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman in a news briefing Tuesday.

Federal authorities believe there are more than 900 victims across at least ten states including Florida. 

"She [my mom] just worked really hard to afford this dress," said Bianca Williams. Williams is a bride-to-be without her wedding dress, less than two months out from her wedding. She just moved to Tampa with her finance.

"Our decorations, our centerpieces; we still haven't sent our wedding invitations yet. They still have our invitations," said Williams.

Williams and her finance Philip Schafer joined the list of hundreds of victims in the elaborate nationwide moving scheme.

"They looked reputable. They touted these things that ended up being lies: how long they had been in business and their reviews," said Schafer.

The moving company that took their belongings was Flagship Van Lines -- one of the companies named in a federal indictment. The couple tells ABC Action News they paid the moving company thousands of dollars to pick up their stuff on June 23. They said the company estimated they would be there around July 2, but it is now August and their belongings are still missing. 

"We've been calling and texting and emailing," said Schafer. 

"It's just been chasing after a ghost," said Williams. 

United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Benjamin Glassman, announced Tuesday that the movers would bump up prices after already packing everything or steal the customers' belongings. 

"Sometimes the customers paid those prices, sometimes the goods were delivered, sometimes the companies didn't deliver the goods at all," said Glassman. 

Authorities say once the victim complained, the company would shut down and open up under another name.

"They were like ghosts and finally someone found them and they can be held accountable for what they did," said Williams. Williams now hopes to see her dress before their big day in September. 

We reached out to Flagship Van Lines but have not heard back.

Meanwhile, the couple is living without real furniture and off of donations from friends. If you can help in any way they can really use a couch to sit on and a television. 

Federal authorities believe there may be more victims. If you believe you are a victim of this fraudulent activity, call the victim hotline at 1-800-424-9071 or email hotline@oig.dot.gov

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