April 23, 2004
charged customers at least twice the contracted
for roles in moving service scam
A FEDERAL jury in Fort
Lauderdale, Fla., has convicted two people on
extortion and fraud charges for their role in
operating moving companies that swindled customers,
including many in Wisconsin, by holding their
furniture hostage until they paid double or more
than the contracted price.
Convicted on Wednesday were Odelia
Shmuelov, president and owner of Transworld
Moving Inc. and a principal in Advanced Moving
Systems Inc. in the Fort Lauderdale area, and
Rafi Rafael Rokah, a foreman who worked for
Transworld and Advanced Moving.
Rafi Rokah is the cousin of Zion Rokah,
owner of Advanced Moving Systems. He was indicted
on similar charges a year ago, along with 74
employees and owners of 14 other Florida-based
Like many of those
indicted, Zion Rokah is an Israeli national and
is believed to have fled to Israel, said
Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlos Castillo of the
the U.S. attorney's Southern District of Florida
Zion Rokah and his company made headlines after
two of his employees were arrested by Thiensville
police in April 2002 when they refused to unload
from their truck furniture belonging to Scott and
Bridget Fletcher unless they were paid
nearly double what the original estimate called
In December 2002, Elizabeth Stuckey paid
Advanced Moving Systems $2,250 to move her
possessions from Arlington, Texas, to Milwaukee's
Bay View neighborhood.
But she was forced to pay another $1,300 to get
her furniture out of a Chicago warehouse.
Similar incidents involving Zion Rokah's company
occurred in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Colorado,
Iowa and other states.
Advanced Moving Systems is blacklisted on dozens
of consumer watchdog Internet sites and was fined
$98,000 in July 2002 by the U.S. government for
violating several consumer regulations.
In 2002, Zion Rokah
said in an interview that he blamed his legal
problems on "stupid, small town, redneck police"
who "hate Jews and strangers."
According to federal officials, it was Shmuelov
who routinely delivered low-ball estimates to
customers who found the company on the Internet,
and it was Rafi Rokah who then drove up the price
after customers' furniture had been loaded on
A request has not been made to extradite Zion
Rokah from Israel, said Castillo, who wouldn't say
whether such a request would be made.
Bridget Fletcher, who testified at the
just-concluded Florida trial, said she was told by
an FBI agent that extradition was in the works.
FBI officials in Florida declined to
Fletcher estimated that she and her husband lost
$1,400 in cash and damaged goods and said she isn't
sure whether they will ever be reimbursed. But she
said she feels that a long ordeal has come to an
"I feel like a million bucks," she said.
Shmuelov and Rafi Rokah were found guilty of
wire and mail fraud and extortion. Each could be
imprisoned for 20 years and fined up to $250,000.
They are scheduled to be sentenced July 14.
Shmuelov also was ordered to forfeit various
assets, including her house, a 2000 Mercedes-Benz
CLK 320 convertible, four semitrailer trucks and $1
Officials estimate Transworld Moving Inc. and
Advanced Moving Systems extorted more than $1.2
million from customers over a two-year period.
Zion Rokah told a reporter in 2002 that he
estimated his company had revenue of more than $2
million a year.
Miami list of the indicted companies
dossier on The Mossad, Israel's Intelligence
dossier on the origins of anti-Semitism
fake docs arrested in Tennessee, 'how to fly'
leaflet found! Were seen to toss something else
out of Ryder truck, FBI called in |
Men Arrested After High Speed Car Chase in
merchant Rothschild back before judge