Families say Charlotte moving company jacked up prices, held belongings hostage

CHARLOTTE — Anyone who has ever moved knows the stress involved, but families across the country are reporting nightmare experiences with one Charlotte moving company.

From the price tag skyrocketing to belongings being held hostage, it is a situation Channel 9′s Allison Latos has been investigating for months.

Fly Movers’ website touts glowing reviews. The picture of their truck clearly claims they are an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau. That’s not only false, the BBB calls it trademark infringement.

“One of the worst corporate professional experiences of my life,” said Erik Dreff of New Jersey.

“I had to come up with an extra $8,000,” said Cathie Campbell, of Pennsylvania.

These families are just a few describing moving horror stories and blaming Fly Movers.

“This move was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said Tatomya Wimbish, of Washington State. “One of the worst -- the worst experiences -- I’ve had with a business owner.”

(WATCH: More customers complain about moving company)

‘Everything they tell you is an absolute lie’

“They’re just scam artists,” said Chad Reynolds, of Texas. “It’s a complete scam. Everything on their website, everything they tell you is an absolute lie.”

“They damaged a lot of our new floors, walls. Our TV was completely smashed,” Dreff said.

“They said, ‘If you do not pay, we will not deliver your furniture,’” Campbell said. “‘We leave it on the truck, turn around, go back to Charlotte, put it in a warehouse somewhere and we have no idea when you’ll get it.’”

Each of these customers said Fly Movers showed up later than they said they would. Then, after their belongings were loaded up, customers were hit with sticker shock, in some cases they said the price tag was doubled.

Dreff moved from North Carolina to New Jersey in February and said Fly Movers suddenly claimed they required a second truck, which cost him thousands of dollars more.

“The original quote was under $6,000. In the end, we owed them over 9 (thousand dollars),” Dreff said.

According to Dreff, Fly Movers told him that if he did not pay, they would leave his belongings in North Carolina.

‘His ashes were in that truck’

Wimbish said she paid the company $6,400, which was the original quote, then an extra $6,500 dollars to get her belongings when Fly Movers said she, too needed a second truck.

“I did consider not paying out of principle,” she said. “But my kids’ pictures from birth on up were in there. My mother-in-law who lived with us lost her husband. His ashes were in that truck.”

These families say local company made moving ‘a nightmare’

“They have an F rating with the BBB, the worst rating we can give a company,” said Tom Bartholomy with the Better Business Bureau.

Bartholomy said that, in the past year, the BBB has received more than 30 complaints against Fly Movers but the company has ignored the bureau’s request for answers.

So, Latos went to the company’s west Charlotte office to ask for herself. She said a man who said his name was Alex stepped outside of the office.

“We have talked to a handful of customers who are pretty frustrated with their experience and the rates they were ultimately charged,” Latos told him.

“Why are we being aired?” Alex asked.

“We’re working on a report about Fly Movers and I’d like to speak with someone about that,” Latos said.

Then, Latos said the man went back inside and locked the door.

‘I just want to see them shut down’

Despite repeated attempts, Channel 9 cannot get anyone from Fly Movers to talk in person or by email, however, they may have to answer to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The feds have 19 complaints against the company. So far, they deem 15 are valid, and are still going through others.

Channel 9 also discovered Fly Movers’ insurance company has filed a cancellation of their insurance policy. North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said his office also is investigating.

“If we find that there is a company out there mistreating their customers, deceiving them or treating them unfairly, we can go to court to get an injunction against them, either to get them in line or if they’re truly a bad actor, to shut them down,” Stein said.

So far, no government authority has actually cracked down.

For the families living this nightmare, Bartholomy said, unfortunately, options are not cheap or quick because the dispute often is considered a civil matter.

“Are you just between a rock and a hard place and forced to pay it?” Latos asked.

“Pay to get your stuff, then sue them,” Bartholomy said. “Finding them corporately to see what assets you can get. It’s a mess.”

It is a mess that can be avoided if people research moving companies first. Unhappy customers are joining forces on Facebook, sharing their experiences to warn others.

“I think they should be banned from moving people ever again,” Dreff said.

“I just want to see them shut down,” Wimbish said. “If that is my mission on this earth and I complete that, I will feel successful.”

‘You literally don’t have anything that you own’

Those four families eventually received their belongings, but a family of four who relocated from the Fort Bragg area to Dallas this summer said they hired Fly Movers for the job and are still trying to get their belongings.

After everything was loaded, the couple said they were hit with sticker shock. They said Fly Movers told them, with no explanation, that the initial $6,800 contract would cost an extra $7,000. The couple refused to pay.

“They have possession of everything, all the way down to our youngest son’s crib,” Chris Nance said.

“My husband spent nine years in the military. All of our memorabilia, family heirlooms, everything,” Rebecca Nance said.

For three months, the Nances have been fighting to get their belongings back, recording their phone calls with Ivan Page, manager of Fly Movers.

“If you’re needing money for something else, you’re going to have to put it in writing as to what’s it for,” Rebecca said, in a phone conversation with the company.

They sent Latos a photo showing Texas deputies trying to get involved and threatening a potential criminal investigation, but so far, the family still has had no luck getting their things.

“You literally don’t have anything that you own. We’ve been married 11 years, two kids. We’ve accumulated this life,” Rebecca said.

(WATCH: 9 Investigates: Reviews on Fly Movers’ website)

‘It is an absolutely fraudulent claim of partnership’

Employees at Fly Movers’ west Charlotte office refused to answer Latos’ questions. By email, an employee told Channel 9 to contact Page. So far, he has not responded.

The Fly Movers website promotes glowing customer reviews, including one from a James Benton.

Channel 9 checked and found this James Benton actually is a realtor in Australia. Latos contacted him, asking if he ever really moved from Knoxville, Tennessee to Raleigh, North Carolina.

We also reached out all the companies listed as clients on the Fly Movers website.

Representatives for Penske, Grace Outreach Ministries, Pilot Flying J and CPI Security, all said they have no affiliation with Fly Movers.

“We will be taking action to have these logos removed as soon as possible,” the Penske rep said.

“We are based in Canada and had no contact with them of any sort. It is absolutely fraudulent claim of partnership,” said the representative of Grace Outreach Ministries.

(WATCH BELOW: Channel 9′s Allison Latos shares tips on how to check moving companies)

Tips from Action 9 when searching for a moving company

Several Fly Movers customers said they did check out the company beforehand and trusted the online reviews. Click here for Fly Movers’ Better Business Bureau profile.

“You want to do everything you can on the front end,” Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke said.

Stoogenke said there are ways to really do your homework on a company and the owner.

“If it is an interstate move from one state to another, the U.S. Department of Transportation has an actually mover search tool. If it is an infrastructure move, so one part of the state to another, but you stay in state, the Utilities Commission in North Carolina also tracks that,” Stoogenke said.

He said before you sign any contract, it is critical to read the fine print. Don’t be tempted to skip that part of the process.

“You want a binding contract and lock in the movers. It should spell out how much you’re going to pay, when they’re going to pay, when they’re going to pick your stuff up and drop it off. What happens if there is a delay? Are they insured? What is covered? It is the vehicle? the freight?” Stoogenke said.

Click here for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, where you can search movers and their complaint history.

The Nances regret not digging deeper. They live with the daily frustration of their moving nightmare, wondering if it will end and they will ever see their stuff again.

“It’s been very unsettling, very unsettling. I hope we get them back,” Rebecca said.

(WATCH BELOW: ‘They have possession of everything’: Families say local company made moving a nightmare)