One family has retrieved their belongings in the latest chapter of a moving-disaster saga that Always Investigating first exposed. There are still hundreds of thousands of dollars in money and belongings in limbo for people across Hawaii and the mainland, but threads of clues are leading to answers one by one on how to start getting the stuff back.
Previously we revealed the story KHON2’s Action Line has heard from dozens of families now, about people who paid thousands a piece to either Pineapple Express Movers or Hawaii Moving and Storage — which have overlapping owner or partner interests. They say they haven’t seen their stuff since moving days that date back to last year.
Brandon Velez, whom we met in his mostly empty Ewa home, hadn’t seen his items since leaving New Jersey last year, shipped via Pineapple Express Movers. But he tracked them by a digital photo geotag to a GPS point corresponding to a California storage facility and found out Hawaii Moving and Storage had rented the unit his items were in. He demanded the moving company owner meet him there today.
“He took too much business, couldn’t follow through, but he didn’t try to get any more money from me,” Velez said following the interaction at the storage unit. “I think he kind of realized at this point that he kind of screwed it up and he wants to keep that business.”
Velez got his things back and snapped some photos of other families things he saw in the storage unit. Velez says he was told Hawaii Moving and Storage’s owner has rented 15 units at this site.
“I just hope everybody gets their stuff back,” Velez told Always Investigating. “I wish I could have done more but I didn’t want to create a hostile environment. He was being cordial and giving me my things back.”
Always Investigating tracked down one of the families whose name was on some goods Velez found in the California storage unit today. He was surprised to learn they were in a storage unit and followed up with the movers, then let us know the movers promised today to finish the $20,000 truck-and-belongings shipment to Maui soon.
So far Always Investigating has found out that shipments are staged in rented storage units coast to coast from Virginia to California. Some belongings are lingering in containers with Matson at the Port of Long Beach and on Oahu, and with interisland carriers on the neighbor islands.
The moving companies won’t give Always Investigating a list of whose stuff is where. Some customers say they can’t get an exact answer either, while others have been able to set meetups in the coming days to get theirs. Customers tell me they feel they’re racing the clock because storage companies often auction off unpaid and unclaimed merchandise if time goes by with bills unpaid.
As for any containers, Matson’s spokesperson Keoni Wagner told me that if they can’t get a shipper of record to pay or pick up: “We would take legal steps to allow us to open the container and try to determine ownership of the contents. If ownership can be established/proven, we would make the contents available to the owner. If ownership cannot be determined, we would likely donate or otherwise dispose of the contents in a responsible manner.”
We’ll continue to try to piece together where people’s things are, and when they’ll get them.