BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is taking action against a moving company accused of holding customers’ possession hostage while demanding more money.
Healey’s office filed a complaint for civil contempt against Billerica-based Father and Son Moving and Storage, alleging the company violated the terms of a previous court judgment.
The legal action by the Attorney General comes in the wake of a November I-Team investigation.
“Based on your reporting and some complaints we’ve received from customers, we believe this company isn’t complying with the law,” Healey told the I-Team. “They are engaging in the very same tactics that lead us to take action against them just a few years ago.”
The civil complaint accuses Father and Son of a “bait and switch scheme,” where customers were lured in by low moving estimates. However, once customers’ possessions were loaded onto the truck, the AG’s office said the business demanded more money and held possessions hostage.
That is exactly how Rosemary Alfredo described her nightmarish moving experience to her North End apartment when interviewed by the I-Team last year.
“It felt like extortion,” Alfredo expressed.
In another customer experience detailed in court documents, Sidney Allison Bechman described her move in 2016 from an East Boston apartment to a home in Marlboro. In the end, Bechman said she paid $3,841.84 for the service, more than double the initial estimate.
“Apart from the substantial financial difficulty inflicted by Father and Son, I am also upset by their threatening tactics,” Bechman wrote. “Their threats and that they would take my things hostage until I met their outrageous demands for payment were very upsetting.”
Reached by phone on Wednesday, co-owner and president Bryan Taylor sent the I-Team a statement, claiming his company has received “countless positive reviews” over the past four years since the legal settlement.
“Father and Son vigorously denies the allegations in the complaint. They are false and misleading,” Taylor wrote. “We continue to provide exemplary service to our customers and look forward to maintaining this level of service for years to come.”
As part of the civil contempt proceedings, a judge ordered $60,000 of the company’s assets to be frozen. That is the amount of Father and Son would have to pay in penalties if it’s proven the business violated the 2013 settlement.
The previous legal action also came after a WBZ I-Team investigation about the moving company.
Healey said her office will be seeking full restitution for consumers who have been victimized by “abusive practices,” along with other financial penalties. No trial date has been scheduled yet.
“I don’t know what (Father and Son) doesn’t understand,” Healey said. “You can’t take people’s property, hold it hostage for a higher fee, and think that’s a fair way to do business. Not in this state.”
Ryan Kath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.