South Florida moving broker hit with lifetime ban, huge fine
The leader of a huge South Florida-based moving broker network has been ordered out of the business permanently after being hit with a second multimillion-dollar fine within four months.
Ohad Guzi, owner of eight mostly Hollywood-based moving companies, has been fined $21.7 million and ordered out of the moving business permanently following a civil trial initiated by the Florida Attorney General’s Office.
The ruling followed a week-long trial in Broward County Circuit Court in April. Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips determined that Guzi engaged in numerous deceptive practices, including misrepresenting his companies as full-service movers with its own trucks and workers, failing to disclose planned use of storage facilities and third-party companies, and providing low-ball estimates and then jacking up prices on the day of the move.
In January, Guzi was ordered to pay $13 million following a separate trial in federal court that found he used the name Northstar Movers to deceive customers into believing they were doing business with California-based NorthStar Moving Company.
According to complaints filed in the latest case, Guzi’s company was also accused of:
- Failing to deliver customers’ goods on the agreed-upon dates
- Using third-party moving services despite promising all work would be done by the companies’ own employees
- Employing unskilled, unqualified and untrained laborers
- Using rented trucks and day laborers instead of the companies’ own trucks and workers as promised
- Cutting off communication with customers after taking possession of their goods and securing about 70% of the amount due
- Hiding identities of Guzi’s enterprises through use of interrelated companies and Department of Transportation registration numbers
The state sued Guzi’s eight companies in December 2018, accusing them of violating Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trades Practices Act, the Florida Moving Act, the Interstate Transportation Code and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations.
Guzi, also known as Chad Cuzi, operated his enterprise between 2009 and 2018 under the names All USA Van Lines LLC; Top Movers, Inc.; Moving Group Inc.; Guzi’s Investments; Cross Country Movers LLC, 24/7 Moving Services Inc., Transworld Movers Inc., and Emoving Company, according to documents filed by prosecutors in the case.
Those companies did business under various other names such as Nationwide Movers System, Affordable Movers and Dispatch My Move.
Principal offices for most of the firms was a warehouse building at 2346 Thomas Street in Hollywood.
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Of the $21.7 million judgment, more than $5 million will go to Guzi’s customers as restitution. Guzi must also pay $16.5 million in civil penalties.
“The court’s final judgment against the defendants sends a clear message that this type of misconduct in the moving industry will not be tolerated,” a news release from the Attorney General’s Office stated this week.
Other agencies that participated in the case were the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Better Business Bureau.
The judgment against Guzi is the latest in a string of victories by consumers who filed complaints against South Florida-based moving brokers who used web sites and phone sales to convince customers of their legitimacy.
In April, the national transit hauler Mayflower Transit LLC filed a federal trademark infringement lawsuit against West Palm Beach-based Mayflower Relocation Services, LLC.
Earlier this month, Andrey Shuklin was sentenced to 78 months in prison after pleading guilty to a racketeering charge in connection with a moving scam he ran with a partner out of an office in Hollywood.
Ron Hurtibise covers business and consumer issues for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. He can be reached by phone at 954-356-4071, on Twitter @ronhurtibise or by email at email@example.com.