WOODSTOCK, Ga - A Woodstock woman finally has her belongings back, nearly a month after an unlicensed mover held them in a dispute over how much she owed.
Kimberly Miles made a mistake committed by a lot of Georgians: she had to hire a moving company at the last minute and didn't check to make sure it was licensed by the state. The state of Georgia requires all moving companies carry enough insurance to cover claims and sets a maximum price they can charge. Last year, more than a dozen unlicensed companies were served with Cease and Desist Orders from the state.
Ms. Miles signed a contract with C&J Top Movers, agreeing to pay $99 an hour to have them move the contents of her two-bedroom apartment from Kennesaw to Woodstock. The two apartments are nine miles away.
C&J required a $200 cash deposit before they would start the move. When they pulled up at the new location, the company owner said by phone he wanted another $400 in cash before they would unload. When Ms. Miles asked for a guarantee that the price would not go any higher, the owner, Cordaruis Ringer, admits he told his workers to drive away. He later said she would have to drive 45 miles to Riverdale and pay him $1000 cash before he would return her belongings. She refused.
"It's just a way for them to intimidate people," she stressed. "And nine times out of 10 they fell for it."
"You were the 10th."
"I was not going to fall for it," she answered.
For nearly a month Kimberly and her family lived without most of their belongings. At one point her 10-year-old son wound up sleeping in the bathtub.
Only after the FOX 5 I-Team talked to Ringer did he finally give in.
"It was a shock when he actually texted and said when can you come get your things" admitted Ms. Miles.
She got another shock when she saw what some of her belongings looked like. After paying a second moving company $780 to bring everything back to Woodstock, the Miles family started examining what was delivered. According to a report she made to police, Kimberly blames the original mover for thousands of dollars in damages to her belongings. A love seat missing all four legs. Liquid detergent that leaked all over her laptop. Jewelry that disappeared. A broken candy dish that belonged to her grandmother. She's filing a claim with her insurance company.
The state issued a Cease and Desist order against C&J Movers last month. Since then, Ringer has shut down his websites and disconnected his phone numbers.
But there was one remaining question: is what happened to the Miles family a crime? Woodstock police originally told Kimberly Miles no; she could only file a civil suit. But that's an answer she wasn't willing to accept.
In Clayton County Magistrate Court, one determined customer asked judge William West to charge her mover with a felony.
"He's also kept medications from me that he was told he needed to bring back even though we were offering to pay," Kimberly Miles testified in a hearing to decide whether charges should be filed.
Ringer was there, too.
"At the end of the day, she still got her stuff back," he reminded the judge. "At the end of the day, only one losing is me. Cause I still haven't got paid."
But judge West zeroed in on the same ad we spotted: C&J Movers falsely advertising that they were licensed and insured, a claim Ringer continued to make in all those emails to Ms. Miles.
The judge ordered Ringer arrested immediately, charging him with felony theft by taking.
"I actually work sir," Ringer pleaded as he was being handcuffed and led away. "And try to do the right thing. I'm telling you like. This is a big mistake."
No, the big mistake, says one of his final customers, was thinking she'd be scared into paying whatever it took to get her belongings back.
"I wanted to stick to my guns because I want to make sure he doesn't do this again to someone else," Ms. Miles explained.
The case now goes to the Clayton County District Attorney's office for prosecution. Ringer has previously served time in prison for multiple offenses, including burglary.