WOODSTOCK, Ga. - Memorial Day week marks the official start of moving season, the time each summer when families pack up all their worldly possessions and trust a stranger to safely move everything to their new home.
So how do you know which strangers to trust? Kimberly Miles learned the hard way.
When the FOX 5 I-Team met the Woodstock mom, she was standing in her new two-bedroom apartment as 10-year-old son Chase rode his scooter in circles. Chase could do that because their furniture, clothes and most other belongings never made it there.
And that's the risk when you hire an unlicensed moving company.
"We're sleeping on the floor every night, trying our best to get through this," explained Kimberly. The first night in their new apartment she says Chase slept in the bathtub.
So what happened to their belongings?
Kimberly hired C&J Top Movers -- licensed and insured according to its website -- to help pack up her two-bedroom Kennesaw apartment and bring everything to Woodstock about nine miles away. Cost according to the contract -- $100 an hour. She paid the required deposit as soon as the truck arrived.
That's when she says her movers started moving in sloooow motion.
"There's no reason why it should take four and a half hours," she complained about how long it took just to get everything packed and in the truck. She says she wound up bringing the wall hangings herself.
According to the police report, she would eventually file, Kimberly said the moving company owner told her over the phone he needed another $400 up front before the truck could be unloaded at the new place.
Kimberly told police she counted out the cash, but when she insisted that be the final price, the truck drove off with virtually everything her family owns. Clothes. Medicine. Jewelry. Furniture. A safe with guns.
"He's holding all of our lives basically for ransom," sighed Kimberly.
It certainly sounded like a hostage negotiation. Texts and voice mail messages went back and forth between Kimberly and C&J Top Movers owner Cordaruis Ringer who called himself Corey, asking that she bring cash to a location in Riverdale, 43 miles away.
"He's wanting me to hand him this cash without our belongings there and without us even knowing they exist anymore," she pointed out.
So Cordaruis sent photos of her belongings. Proof of life if you will. And each day the price went up for what she'd have to pay. Citing storage fees, that nine-mile move is now more than one thousand dollars.
But there were two things Kimberly did not know until the FOX 5 I-Team told her. C&J Top Movers is not listed as a licensed mover on the official state website. And Cordaruis Ringer is an ex-con.
When we caught up to Ringer, he denied his company was unlicensed. Yet he refused to show us proof it was.
"We've been trying to get them their stuff," he maintained. "They want to fight. Back and forth. I ain't trying to take anything from them."
Despite his claim, the Georgia Department of Public Safety issued a Cease and Desist Order against Ringer, telling him to stop operating an unlicensed moving company or he could be fined $5000 for each violation.
And what about Kimberly Miles? Woodstock police tried to intervene, but ultimately decided it was a civil case. But after she learned the company wasn't licensed, Kimberly applied to have Cordaruis Ringer arrested in Clayton County on the charge of Theft by Deception. A hearing is scheduled for next month to see whether a judge will sign the warrant.
That still leaves the trickiest part -- finding her belongings -- and getting them back where they belong.
"We want our things back," she stressed. "We don't care about anything other than getting those things back."
Kimberly did experience a small bit of kindness. One of the priceless family possessions on the truck that drove away that night was a box with the ashes of Kimberly's father-in-law who served with honor in Vietnam.
A few days later, in the midst of her dispute with the moving company, that box reappeared on the front steps of their old apartment in Kennesaw. The family thinks one of Cordaruis Ringer's workers became worried it would be lost in the dispute and decided to bring it back.
HERE'S WHAT TO DO TO AVOID A BAD MOVER:
* check the Georgia Public Safety website for licensed movers. Everyone on this list must be insured and bonded. Maximum rates are also listed: http://www.gamccd.net/hglicensedmovers.aspx
* check with local Better Business Bureau website for ratings at www.atlanta.bbb.org
* If you have items that are particularly valuable (medicine, jewelry, firearms), consider moving them to your new home yourself.