Florida-based Locksmith Chain Raided on Wednesday
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Federal agents stormed the headquarters of Dependable Locks, a national locksmith chain based in Tampa Bay, Fla., on Wednesday, seizing computers and documents, and arresting one of its owners for alleged money laundering.
The raid came days after a WTSP-TV investigation into deceptive sales practices by the locksmith chain.
"This reaches throughout the United States," said Doug Smith with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the agency to raid the office. "Clearwater... is where a lot of the employees were working, basically in a call center-type scenario."
Despite hundreds of complaints to dozens of different state agencies, it took a collective effort from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Missouri Attorney General Office, and Clearwater police to bring the company down because locksmiths are unregulated in 36 states, including Florida.
Investigators arrested one of the owners of Dependable Locks, Moshe Aharoni, charging him with federal mail fraud. An affidavit accuses Aharoni, 28, and fellow owner David Peer, 31, of laundering money through Postal Service money orders. A federal warrant is out for Peer's arrest.
The affidavit also accuses the owners of instructing their more than 100 employees - many of whom were Israeli nationals in the U.S. without work visas - how to overcharge and deceive customers. The Better Business Bureau gave the company an "F'' rating because of hundreds of complaints received over the past two years.
The bust was months in the making, and more arrests are expected. A St. Louis man - Eliyahu Barhanun, 29 - was arrested in a simultaneous sting in Missouri.
"More complaints will come in," Smith said, "and you've got to remember, these are allegations, so there's more investigating to do."
U.S. Postal Inspectors have established a hotline for those believing they are victims of locksmiths' deceptive sales practices. The phone will not be manned, but callers are encouraged to leave their contact information at 1-877-876-2455.