JUDGE

Judge Rules Maryland Moving Company Violated Law

A judge ruled this week a local moving company accused of ripping off customers violated law.

Maryland’s attorney general filed civil charges against Swift Van Lines LLC after a News4 consumer investigation last year. A viewer said he had been ripped off by the moving company, and News4 found out he wasn’t the only customer with a complaint.

The attorney general said Swift would provide low estimates to customers and drastically increased its prices after loading the customers’ items onto trucks. The charges filed are based on the Maryland Consumer Protection Act and the Maryland Household Goods Movers Act.

Swift owner Juan Carlos Martinez appeared before a judge at a hearing in January, where six former customers testified.

The judge ruled this week that Martinez violated the law by charging customers more than 125 percent of their estimates and holding their goods hostage.

"Swift engaged in a pattern of conduct specifically designed to deceive consumers," the judge said.

In January, Martinez represented himself and pleaded the Fifth Amendment.

The judge noted Martinez's behavior, saying his "demeanor displayed a troubling indifference as to how his actions affected Swift's customers."

The consumer protection division of the attorney general's office will issue its final decision in the case in the coming weeks, determining any civil fines and customer restitution.

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