DENVER — An Aurora family is warning others about moving brokers after they said a moving company stole their belongings.
Brandi and Alex Apolinaris will tell you themselves that they trusted the wrong people.
"Don't do what we did," said Alex Apolinaris. "Hire someone reputable or just do it yourselves."
The family of five made a big move last month from Aurora to Forney, Texas.
"I'm sick to my stomach. I can't eat. I can't sleep. I'm a mess," said Brandi Apolinaris. "I just keep thinking he has everything we own. Everything."
They found AAA Moving Group out of Florida online, later learning the company is a moving broker, which hired H&M Relocation Services and David (Huseyn) Zoda.
The couple says Zoda demanded more money from them after their belongings were loaded.
"He said to me, 'I can charge you whatever I want. I can charge you an extra $8,000 anytime I want if you want to see your stuff again,'" said Alex Apolinaris. "That's when I knew I was in trouble."
That was June 2, and they have waited more than a month for their things to arrive in Texas, providing text messages of Zoda claiming everything from hospitalization to truck issues as an excuses for delays.
This week, the Apolinaris family flew back to Colorado to search for their items and file theft charges.
"I told him we just want our things back," said Alex Apolinaris. "But he won't tell us where they are."
The sentimental items concern them the most.
"My wedding dress. My Christmas decorations. Who wants that stuff? Nobody but me," said Brandi Apolinaris. "All of our furniture. We're living on air mattresses right now. How can someone do this to us?"
If this sounds familiar, Contact Denver7 reported on H&M Relocation and "David Zoda" earlier this year after they held a Longmont cancer patient's heirlooms for more than four months. Our stories prompted a criminal investigation and the woman's items returned.
"We're working with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)," said Det. Stephen Desmond with the Longmont Police, who could not comment about the investigation.
In both of these cases, moving brokers that referred H&M Relocation Services washed their hands of any responsibility.
AAA Moving Group has dozens of complaintswith the FMCSA. They did not respond to a request for comment.
The industry is lightly regulated, and while the agency could suspend licenses and fine companies, the FMCSA declined a request for comment. Their website provides a tool to verify moving companies and brokers and search for complaints.
Consumer advocates with MoveRescue.com, however, said broker fraud is happening more and more frequently.
"The best thing you can do is to simply avoid associating with these brokers, because they are the ones that are going to put you in a bad position," said Joshua Swyers, an attorney and supervisor with MoveRescue. "And those brokers are then funneling business down to these fraudulent entities."
Zoda, whose real name is reportedly Huseyn Nemat-Zada, and he said under federal regulations he has 24 business days to return the items, and claimed the clock did not start until June 8.
"I am doing nothing illegal," said Zoda, who said it was a large job and he needed to have his new truck registered to complete it.
The Apolinaris family said they no longer trust him, and they just want their things back.
Zoda said he would allow the family to pick up their belongings Wednesday.
"He stole my stuff. He stole our stuff. My my kids stuff," said Alex Apolinaris. "We paid $15,000 already, and we may have to pay him more for doing nothing."
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