Families, police on nationwide hunt for goods after moving company delays

Patrice Cox is losing hope.

“I’m really frustrated, but I’m also angry and disappointed,” she told us.

For months, movers have not delivered her family’s most precious items. From priceless Christmas collectibles to a remarkable heirloom.

“My husband’s grandmother was from Germany. And during the war, she took her China and buried it in the backyard of her house so the Nazis wouldn’t get it. And I had that. And that is on that truck,” said Cox.

In April, Cox paid $2,200 to have a moving truck take her items from Sammamish, Washington, to Austin, Texas. Months later, those goods have not been delivered.

The company responsible for the delivery is Princeton Moving and Storage out of Illinois, according to Cox.

“I’ve had seven different dates of when they’re going to deliver my stuff, and it’s all a lie. I mean, they are just stringing me along,” said Cox.

According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records, Princeton Movers has 21 complaints this year alone. Eighteen on pickup and delivery issues. All for a company with one registered truck.

“I mean, these companies and the number of people that have been affected by this — by this one company. In our Facebook group, there’s 25 of us from this one moving company,” said Cox.

Indeed, customers from across the country are using that page to share photos and information, including Elana Anthony of Cypress, Texas.

“We are the family where the incident was reported where [Princeton] came unannounced Sunday afternoon,” said Anthony in a Facebook Live video. “No. 1, all this stuff isn’t mine. So the pictures that you see from Texas — that’s my garage.”

Customers’ detective work leads to police action

Matthew Chase was forced to start his amateur detective work after hiring Princeton Movers to get his girlfriend’s items from Seattle to Maryland. He paid $2,700.

“She’s like, ‘I think you need to go look at this storage unit,’” said Chase.

However, in their scant paperwork, she found one huge clue.

“Because on the top of one of the pages of some document, she had somebody had scrawled ‘Storage One Renton,’” said Chase.

He called Renton police, and they served a search warrant on the storage facility. But by that time, only one of his items was in the unit.

“The only thing that was there was maybe one or two other family’s stuff because it was like a double unit. It was like 30-plus-feet long and 10-feet wide. It was a big storage unit,” said Chase.

Now, the members of the group are calling storage facilities across the country looking for their goods and then alerting police.

“Time is really painting the picture here,” said Sgt. Tim Meyer of the King County Sheriff’s Office.

After an initial delay, it appears law enforcement is also making its moves.

“I think as these cases go on, it’s getting far beyond just a company that maybe isn’t performing well — to maybe being able to articulate fraud and outright deceit,” said Meyer.

Do your homework before you move

Amanda Maxwell from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission — the group that regulates in-state movers — said choosing out-of-state companies is difficult.

“It’s really important to ask questions: Who is going to be actually doing the move? Find out the company’s name. Look for their brick-and-mortar address,” said Maxwell.

If you go through a broker — as Chase and Cox did — you may have no choice over who they choose to move your goods.

“It gets a lot more complicated. We have little authority over them,” said Maxwell.

We contacted the owner of Princeton Moving and Storage, Gilbert Benedict.

He wouldn’t tell us where the customers’ items were. His formal statement about our report is a text: “You can take that time to air about the virus we got going please.”

Making progress

Now, because of the detective work being done by customers, news is breaking all over the country.

“The stuff of my girlfriend Cheryl’s is potentially in a truck that had broken down in Nebraska, along with a woman’s stuff in New York,” said Matthew Chase.

As for Cox in Sammamish, others’ Facebook detective work paid off.

“And it’s just overwhelming of what happened when I saw that,” she said.

Police said a Princeton Moving customer identified a storage unit rented by the company in Aloha, Oregon. And a search warrant uncovered a lost Christmas item found in August.

“Well, if you blow it up, this box right here, this clear one? It’s my [Christmas] village,” said Cox.

While the hunt for storage units connected to Princeton Movers goes national, families can have a chance to discover something just as important along the way.

“I have hope. A lot of hope. That I am going to get it back. And that’s the main thing is hope,” said Cox.

If you have tips that you think could help this case, contact your local law enforcement. You can also inform us, and we will get that information to the right people.

Tips for your next move:

  • Choose a professional mover with a UTC permit.
  • For interstate moves, you can look up movers and brokers on protectyourmove.gov.
  • Check out the company: Look for a brick-and-mortar location, phone number and email.
  • Look at customer reviews and complaints and check the company’s references.
  • Get recommendations from people you know and trust who have hired a mover recently.
  • Compare costs.
  • Trust your gut. If a company makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t work with them.

Email Jesse right now at consumer@kiro7.com