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News


Shady moving firm gone, but left a
lot

07/22/02

By Michaelangelo Conte
Journal staff writer

WEEHAWKEN - The enigma of three Israeli movers seen celebrating
while they videotaped the burning Twin Towers on Sept. 11 may be fizzling
to an anticlimactic end, as the landlord of the moving company's
warehouse finishes cleaning out the last traces of their business.

At first, it looked like the three employees of Urban Moving Systems,
seen in a parking lot near the Doric Apartments in Union City, might be
members of the al-Qaida cell that authorities say brought down the World
Trade Center and destroyed part of the Pentagon.

Later, the company's owner, Dominik Otto Suter, was featured in an ABC
News "20/20" report that speculated Urban Moving could have been a front
for an Israeli spy mission.

The FBI raided the warehouse, on 18th Street, hours after the Sept. 11
attacks on the World Trade Center, taking away documents and computer
hard drives and questioning the owner, but agents were unable to reach
Suter when they tried to find him a few days later. He sold his home on
Harlow Crescent in Fair Lawn in January for $345,000 and moved back to
Israel.

The company's five employees have been deported for immigration
violations, but apparently no charges connected to the terrorist attacks
have been filed against them or Suter.

The Connecticut owner of the Weehawken warehouse used by Urban
Moving was left with furniture and other items filling up 17,000 square feet
of the building.

After spending more than $100,000 to return what he could, the owner is
saying now that the stuff has to go.

"We got rid of all the items that could be identified," said the owner, who
asked that his name not be used. After spending the $100,000 it cost him
to return what he could, the owner is now left with items that take up
about 2,000 square feet of the warehouse.

He is asking that anyone wishing to recover their property call (914)
969-7700 and be prepared to identify the property and provide
documentation proving ownership. If anything remains in 40 days from
today, the owner said he will likely give it to charity.

The owner said he did not believe the business was connected to
terrorism or spying, but said the FBI interviewed him as part of its
investigation into the moving company after Sept. 11 and said "they took
the investigation very seriously."

Weehawken police said prior to Sept. 11, they received calls from Urban
Moving customers in Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina and California
alleging that company drivers tried to extort money from them by refusing
to unload their property unless customers paid more than the contracted
amount.

Police said other complaints filed against Suter included assault and
writing bad checks.

"The moving company had a lot of questionable business practices and
there were a number of warrants for Suter's arrest, so I don't expect he will
come back to America," the warehouse owner said.

On Sept. 11, a Doric Apartments resident called police with the license
plate number of the van used by the celebrating men, and several hours
later police caught up with the van, on the Route 3 service road near
Giants Stadium in East Rutherford.

Inside, according to ABC News, police found a boxcutter, $4,700 hidden
in one man's sock and two foreign passports. Five men were in the van
and all of them were arrested.

Urban Moving Systems bought a warehouse in Bayonne on Gould Street
on Aug. 6 for $700,000 and now owes Bayonne $26,000 in back taxes on
the property, a Bayonne tax official said yesterday.

It is not clear if Urban Moving Systems customers still have property in
that building or if investigators searched it, but Sandra Carroll, a
spokeswoman for the FBI office in Newark, said yesterday that "the
individuals were investigated thoroughly and were not found to have any
connection with the Sept. 11. terrorism attacks or with any intelligence
agencies."

Michaelangelo Conte can be reached at mconte@jjournal.com
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