TYLER (CBSDFW.COM) — John Junior Smith was hired to move a family’s possessions out of their Tyler home. He did just that; however, he kept all their stuff.

Smith pleaded guilty to defrauding the family and stealing over $44,000 worth of belongings. He was sentenced to 8 years confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

In August 2013, the family chartered a moving company to help them move to Houston — some 200 miles away. When the company arrived at the home, they determined that additional help was needed. They hired John and his wife Lawanda Smith.

The majority of the family’s belongings were loaded into Smith’s vehicle. While “en route” to Houston, Smith called from Malakoff to alert the family of mechanical problems with his vehicle.

After the items failed to make it to Houston, the family reached out to Smith. Smith held the family’s belongings ransom, demanding more money to cover the repairs of his vehicle. The victims agreed to pay, but Smith stopped returning phone calls and never returned their items.

Days later, a citizen found some of the victim’s belongings next to a dumpster behind a CVS in Tyler. Filing cabinets and irreplaceable documents were scattered throughout the area and in the dumpster.

The citizen alerted the family, who then went to Facebook in hopes of finding information about the culprit.

After gathering information, the family contacted Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee. A preliminary investigation was conducted by the Sheriff’s Office, which was able to track down Smith.

Smith led authorities to a storage locker, where some of the victim’s items were being held. The suspect denied knowing where the remainder of the family’s items were.

Smith and his wife were arrested for Theft of Property Greater than $20,000.

“This is the first time I have dealt with this kind of scam in our County, but it doesn’t surprise me,”  said District Attorney McKee.

McKee says scams like this happen all over the country. He recommends visiting the websites ProtectYourMove.gov and  fmcsa.dot.gov before hiring a mover.

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