Police: Fake movers looking for their next target

HPD, moving industry have tips to avoid becoming victim

HOUSTON - May is the start of the busiest season for movers and prime time for con artists.

A Texas law passed in the last legislative session has given officers more penalties to fight the crooked movers, and Houston victims said it is just in time.

"They deceive you in a very, very smart way," said Jindu Okwuwa.

Okwuwa is one of dozens of victims who lost everything in a moving scam.

"They got everything. Everything. Every last thing. That night I had to buy a toothbrush," Okwuwa said.

Police said Okwuwa was ripped off by Anthony Fanelli, 38, and Andy Bueno, 33. Both have been accused of running a moving scam city by city across Texas.

Okwuwa said Fanelli and Bueno stole everything, including wedding presents and even the rings, a week before his wedding.

"They will take everything and they are very, very professional about it," Okwuwa said.

"We have people who have lost family heirlooms, their children's birth certificates, their grandparents' birth certificates," HPD Major Offenders Division Officer Gilbert Brillion said.

Houston police, who broke up the alleged moving ring, said they expect more arrests soon.

"There is also likelihood of some other individuals being charged with the same series of crimes," Brillion said.

Law enforcement and the moving industry have teamed up to warn people to protect themselves from bogus movers.

Here are a few tips to avoid becoming a victim:

  • Get a written contract before the move.
  • Never accept a verbal quote or agreement.
  • If a mover tries to hold your items hostage for an additional payment, call police.

You can do a search to check if a mover is licensed on the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles' website.

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