CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - One of the alleged masterminds behind a racketeering enterprise involving moving companies is in custody, according to jail records.
Sergei Verlan, 35, had fled to Bermuda then Panama after a Federal Grand Jury in Ohio charged 12 people on July 31 with conspiring in a racketeering enterprise, to defraud people through their moving companies in several states, using several aliases -- Flagship Van Lines was among those indicted.
Verlan was apprehended in Panama, returned to the US, and taken to the Butler County Jail, according to court and jail records.
Verlan pleaded not guilty to charges at a Friday hearing in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, court documents showed.
Court documents also showed there is currently an ICE detainer on Verlan.
“ICE places detainers on aliens who have been arrested on local criminal charges and for whom ICE possesses probable cause to believe that they are removable from the United States, so that ICE can take custody of the alien when he or she is released from local custody,” states the US Customs and Immigration Enforcement policy.
Federal officials seized a company warehouse in West Chester after Flagship Van Lines was indicted on charges related to allegations bilking clients out of money and failing to deliver goods in eight different states.
Along with the warehouse in West Chester, Flagship had eight warehouses across the U.S.
Federal authorities charged 12 people in the case and arrested five of them back in July, according to the US Department of Justice.
A former Hebron, Kentucky couple were victims of the scam after they hired Flagship to move their belongings to their new home in Sarasota, Florida.
The couple, Jeanne and Mike Porter, paid Flagship $2,400 to move their stuff, but before the move, they were told they had to pay more. Movers said they had too much stuff.
The couple agreed to pay and left for Florida but their possessions never arrived.
The Porter’s belongings were found in the West Chester warehouse and eventually returned to them.
“It’s really a relief when you hear that these people are incarcerated, because of the fact that they can’t be out there doing the same thing to other people,” said Jeanne Porter.
Department of Justice says the Porters were one of hundreds involved in this nationwide scam.
Jeanne gave advice for anyone prepping for the big move, “Research, research, research..and please, don’t pay money upfront to a mover because it’s not legit. I wish i’d known that a few months ago..”