Deceptive moves: Customers say belongings held hostage or stolen

ABC 7 I-Team Investigation

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Friday, November 11, 2016
Customers say moving company held their belongings hostage
The ABC 7 I-Team investigated alarming claims about a mover allegedly stealing items or holding them hostage.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The ABC 7 I-Team investigated alarming claims about a mover allegedly stealing items or holding them hostage.

Just imagine, your entire life is on a moving truck and you can't get your items delivered. One angry customer told the I-Team it happened to her and the I-Team found the same moving company faces other disturbing allegations of "deceptive moves."

"My things were stolen so everything in here is basically new," Seynique Smythe said.

Smythe, a University of Chicago graduate, said she had to sink thousands of dollars into buying new furniture and clothing

"My grandmother passed away a few years ago, she made me a quilt. Gone. I like to travel," she said. "I've collected a lot of things. All gone. Sorry. Everything is gone."

Smythe said one man, Clarence "Bruno" Vogt, who pleaded guilty to a bad check misdemeanor charge in 2014, has been holding her belongings.

In July, she said she paid Vogt and World Movers $1,350 in full to move everything, including her car, to Maryland.

She also filed a Chicago police report but said she's gotten nowhere. Police told me it's an ongoing "deceptive practice" investigation

"I was incredibly anxious because I had yet to see my car or anything I owned. All I had was a suitcase. I had nothing," Smythe said.

Then a surprise call from Berwyn police said they recovered her car. According to a police report, Vogt was pulled over driving her vehicle. Smythe flew back to Chicago to retrieve her car. According to the Berwyn police report, Vogt said he had sub contracted the move to another company with Smythe's permission

"He put about close to 1,500 miles on my car within those three weeks. I got a notice from the Illinois Tollway. There were fines upwards of $600," she said.

The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) regulates movers.

"We have a long history with this company and unfortunately, it's been under different names. Everything from Clarence Vogt, to Vogt Relocation Services Inc, and some others in our database. Essentially this company lost its license in 2008 and since that time we've seen several complaints," Danisha Hall, Illinois Commerce Commission, said.

The ICC said Vogt has 23 citations, some for working without a license, and that he owes about $10,000 in fines.

Barrington resident Bob Vilsoet, claims that Vogt recently jacked up the price of his move after his family's belongings were loaded on the trucks.

"He kidnapped my stuff. it was clear extortion to me," Vilsoet said.

Vilsoet said Vogt held everything overnight until he paid thousands over the written estimate of $3,800. The final bill jumped up to $6,600 and Vilsoet said he had to pay an additional $500 cash to get his belongings.

"He wasn't going to deliver the first thing until the money was paid up front," Vilsoet said.

But it's not just customers who are upset with Vogt. Mark Donaghey was a freelance mover hired by Vogt.

"He simply didn't pay me. After I'd worked for him, we worked very hard. It was a very large house we were moving," Donaghey said.

Vogt didn't show up for a scheduled interview with the ABC 7 I-Team and refused to comment over the phone. His companies have several listed addresses. His last one is now empty.

At his most recent home address, a woman identifying herself as a friend, said he no longer lives there and may have left town.

"Just give back my things. I want my stuff back," Smythe said.

Before hiring a mover, the ICC said customers should check with them to make sure the company is licensed in the state of Illinois, which is a requirement, and beware of estimates that seem too low. That could be a sign that the price will skyrocket in the middle of the move. Customers should also check a company's Better Business Bureau record.

Before you hire a mover: Top 10 recommendations to help you enjoy a good move

Click here to search for good movers licensed by the Illinois Commerce Commission