Feb 24, 2014 12:45 AM by Matthew Schwartz
Tucson - A former long-time employee of 3 Gorillas Moving and Storage has come forward to tell the News 4 Tucson Investigators what he says really goes on inside the company.
Chris Gillam says 3 Gorillas Moving and Storage owner Troy Emerson has been ripping-off customers for years, and that he saw it first-hand. Gillam worked at 3 Gorillas on and off for ten years, as a mover and driver.
The News 4 Tucson Investigators asked Gillam, "Why did you come forward? Why do you want our viewers to know about this?" He replied, "Because Troy Emerson needs to be held accountable. What he's doing is wrong. "
Gillam said he saw the News 4 Tucson Investigators' report last month, about how 3 Gorillas sold, lost and damaged customers' belongings. Gillam told us there are some "standard practices" at 3 gorillas.
He said, "They will low ball a job. They will give what they call a good faith estimate." Gillam said this estimate is usually given over the phone.
We said to Gillam, "We keep hearing that 3 gorillas, once they get your stuff on a truck, your belongings, they triple, quadruple the price." He replied, "That is correct."
Gillam also told us, "If there's packing to be done on the job, they will literally add on packing that never happened. You know, say they used five dish packs, they'll put ten down. Or if they used four mirror cartons, they'll put seven or eight down. They pad the bill. If they're going to Phoenix, they'll add like a $600 flat rate travel charge. They don't tell the shipper about that until after the stuff is on the truck."
Gillam says he was fired last month after he accused Emerson of shorting his paycheck.
We asked Gillam, "Why should people believe you, a disgruntled employee who got fired?" He said, "I say look at the facts."
We called 3 Gorillas owner Troy Emerson for his response to Gillam's comments. He said we need to talk to his wife about this, but then hung up on us. When we caught up with him last month, Emerson claimed 3 Gorillas does such a high volume of business, there are going to be some complaints.
Emerson told us, "We do a lot of moves; we have a lot of happy clients."
The Better Business Bureau calls 3 Gorillas Southern Arizona's most complained-about mover. Gillam says the company preys on customers they perceive as easy marks, such as 66-year old cancer patient Dr. Ronald Bernstein.
As the News 4 Tucson Investigators reported last month, Bernstein said 3 Gorillas lost, damaged, or sold hundreds of his items, including an expensive piano.
"I'm terribly upset and saddened," Bernstein said.
We reported in January that 3 Gorillas put Bernstein's piano up for auction on Ebay four days after moving it out of Bernstein's home. 3 Gorillas later sold the Yamaha Concern Grand to music teacher Rob Francis for $14,250, and charged Francis another $750 for delivery.
Bernstein believes 3 Gorillas took advantage of him. "I believe the term is "vulnerable adult,'" Bernstein said.
We asked Gillam, "Did 3 Gorillas think that Dr. Bernstein was a vulnerable adult, an easy mark? Oh, most definitely. They bragged about it in the office."
Karen Barbera hired 3 Gorillas to move her family in 2012 from Oro Valley to N. Tustin, Ca. She said, "They told us it would cost $15,000. And it ended up costing us over $100,000."
Barbera says 3 Gorillas lost numerous items belonging to her family. Her insurer, State Farm, agreed, citing 22 lost items totaling almost $11,000.
Barbera said, "I think they knowingly go in, take advantage of people, I think they knowingly take things that don't belong to them, and I think they sell them for profit."
The News 4 Tucson Investigators asked former 3 Gorillas employee Chris Gillam, "You have no doubt that 3 Gorillas sold a lot of Dr. Bernstein's and Karen Barbera's belongings?" Gillam replied, "Absolutely no doubt in my mind. I know it for a fact."
Troy Emerson says he sold some of Dr. Bernstein's belongings because Bernstein owes him $30,000 for the move. They are suing each other. The trials are scheduled to start in October. Sources tell us the Arizona Attorney General is investigating 3 Gorillas.
If you have a story you'd like us to investigate, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call our tip line, (520) 955-4444.