The two males had averted legal prices for his or her alleged shifting rip-off, even after years of buyer complaints. But after they arrived at their Scarborough, Ont., enterprise park in June, undercover police in additional than a dozen automobiles have been ready.
The takedown was rapid.
In the weeks that adopted, the cost sheet would develop to greater than 800 counts, together with fraud, theft and conspiracy, associated to greater than a dozen shifting firms alledgedly operated by the males that moved customers regionally and throughout the nation.
It is probably the largest ever prosecution of movers accused of scamming their customers.
None of the allegations has been confirmed in court docket.
As Dogan Celik and Cemal Ozturk have been led away in handcuffs, a CBC Marketplace workforce was watching.
This is the story of how the case got here collectively.
WATCH | Exclusive video exhibits alleged shifting scammers arrested:
The movers’ strategies
Complaints had been regular for years, to police, the Better Business Bureau, Consumer Protection Ontario and on-line evaluations.
But investigators recommend that when a shifting firm title grew to become too problematic, the title can be modified. A reset of types to wipe the slate clear.
“The new firm names that have been created again in March of this 12 months weren’t on our radar,” mentioned Const. Chris Long of Toronto police.
His investigation started quickly after a Marketplace episode aired that seemed into the similar set of shifting firms, however police say they weren’t conscious of that episode till later in their very own investigation.
The alleged rip-off uncovered by Marketplace seems to be similar to what police later discovered. It would start with a buyer being provided a quote or estimate primarily based on what the movers described as an business commonplace. On shifting day, that they had customers sign a brand new contract.
But “as soon as that sufferer’s property was en path to their vacation spot, they have been contacted by a consultant of the firm and instructed that they must pay a lot increased costs, typically in the vary of 300 to 500 per cent of the unique estimate,” mentioned Long.
This was usually primarily based on claims that the belongings weighed greater than the unique quote.
If the buyer did not pay, police and customers allege the movers would threaten to dispose of their belongings.
But investigators had a spot of their info.
They have been usually solely contacted after a buyer realized one thing was flawed. There was no proof of what their belongings weighed earlier than the transfer. And as soon as the movers loaded up their truck, they required customers to sign a contract agreeing to a flat weight, whereas additionally waiving any proper to really weigh any of it.
And then one other officer instructed Long what he’d simply seen on tv: the unique Marketplace investigation the place journalists posed as customers and carried out a transfer with one of the suspect firms. The journalists did weigh their belongings, and had proof that the steered flat weight was a lot increased than the precise weight of the objects. They additionally used hidden cameras and satellite tv for pc trackers as half of the investigation.
“It was good for me as a result of it supplied some observation,” mentioned Long. “It gave me quite a bit of confirmations about what I used to be doing.”
Busting the movers, returning belongings
When police arrested the alleged principals of the numerous firms, Ozturk and Celik, in addition they discovered a whole bunch of items of furnishings and bins belonging to customers of their warehouses.
They knew what to search for, they later mentioned, as a result of Marketplace had hidden digital camera video inside the warehouse in its episode.
At least some of the contents have been being held pending additional fee.
Marie Clarke Walker started her transfer from Ottawa to Toronto with an estimate of $723.20. Soon after pickup, that worth jumped to $4,009.26.
She thought she would by no means see her belongings once more — till she obtained a name from police saying “we discovered your issues,” a moment she describes leaving her “extraordinarily comfortable.”
“It wasn’t the sofa and the 4 beds” that she was most excited to see. Instead, it was “footage, these mementoes that I might by no means get again.”
Other shifting firms, all members of the Canadian Association of Movers, collected her belongings — and people of dozens of customers — and returned them.
Walker is now one of dozens of customers linked to the legal grievance.
Ozturk and Celik now every face greater than 270 counts of numerous prices from fraud to possession of the proceeds of crime, conspiracy, theft and mischief.
Marketplace approached each males for remark, although neither mentioned a phrase. It additionally contacted their legal professionals, however obtained no remark. Prior to the episode’s broadcast in March, Celik did ship a press release saying he values his customers and promised a full evaluation of operations.
The movers’ dangerous week will get worse
After the arrests in June, investigators moved shortly to switch the two males to Toronto’s South Detention Centre, a sprawling advanced with few home windows and excessive partitions.
They would spend six days there, showing in court docket by video hyperlink in orange jumpsuits, till being launched on bail.
Lawyer Rocco Scocco was ready for them.
“While I’m happy to see regulation enforcement do that … I’ve been disillusioned in them for the previous two years as a result of these should not even be on my desk as a civil litigator,” he mentioned.
The lawyer was in the jail car parking zone with stacks of civil lawsuits from previous customers. He wanted to serve the two males with the paperwork, however had been unable to search out them.
Ozturk was the first to depart and moved shortly to a ready automobile.
But the driver of that automobile had his window open as he sped away. Scocco hurled the lawsuits into the automobile whereas yelling, “You’ve been served, Mr. Ozturk.”
An identical scene performed out minutes later when Celik was launched.
In the weeks that adopted, Chatham-Kent Police would additionally cost the two males.
Two extra people linked to the companies would even be arrested. Days after the preliminary arrests, police would decide up a lady who now faces 269 prices. Police up to date the investigation in the fall, asserting the arrest of a second girl on a handful of prices.
There are additionally greater than a dozen pending civil lawsuits in opposition to Ozturk and his Move Me Again firm.
It is an extended authorized street forward, and the largest ever investigation for Long of Toronto police, as he works to show his assertions in court docket.
“This is not even a client safety matter,” he mentioned. “Consumer safety is designed to control actually reliable companies, not designed to control criminality, which I imagine that these shifting frauds are fully legal.”