Contempt Charges Sought Against Moving Company Owner
Attorney General Spitzer said today that his office is seeking contempt-of-court charges and fines against the owner of a Watertown moving and storage company who inexplicably prevented customers - - including returning U.S. Army soldiers - - from reclaiming their household furnishings and personal belongings.
"My office is working with local officials and businessmen to resolve this bizarre situation and ensure that customers gain access to their property as soon as possible," Spitzer said.
Today's court filing stems from a lawsuit brought by the Attorney General last November against Mark Kurtz, owner of John Murray and Son Movers. That lawsuit was filed after the Attorney General's regional office in Watertown received more than two dozen complaints about the company. Some of the complaints were from 10th Mountain Division soldiers who returned from tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq and had tried unsuccessfully to get their belongings out of storage.
On December 15, a state court judge ruled against Kurtz, ordering him to pay $8,000 in restitution to customers and $2,000 in costs. The judge also authorized the Attorney General's regional office to take possession of all goods stored by Kurtz in a block-long warehouse on Burdick Street.
After the ruling, the Attorney General's office worked with another local moving company - Livingston Moving and Storage Co. - to take possession of the belongings and safely store them at no cost until they could be returned to rightful owners.
While that process was underway, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department discovered that Kurtz had also stored his customers' belongings in trailers and crates in an open field in the nearby Town of Brownville. Some of these belongings were left uncovered and suffered damage from rain and snow. The contents of those trailers have since been moved to the Livingston Company's storage facility in LeRay.
In papers filed today in state Supreme Court, the Attorney General's office is seeking fines of $1,000 per day and possible incarceration for Kurtz for violating the court's original court order.
The office is also seeking a court order to inspect a large moving van and the garage at Kurtz's home in Watertown to determine whether additional customer belongings are being stored there.
It is not known how many customers may be affected by this situation. The owners of some of the belongings may be soldiers who are still deployed overseas.
Authorities are at a loss as to why Kurtz has abandoned his responsibilities to his customers. They have repeatedly sought records and other assistance from Kurtz in returning people's belongings, but he has not complied with these requests.
Attorney General Spitzer thanked Bruce Grable of Livingston Moving and Storage for his generous assistance in this matter. He also thanked Jefferson County Sheriff John Burns for his office's valuable help in the case.
The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General John Sullivan, head of the Attorney General';s Watertown Regional Office with assistance from Deborah Rathbun and Carol Lively.