PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A ripped up couch, scratched tabletop, busted off dress door handle and broken end table make up Ramona Russo’s furniture.
“Total hell,” she says.
It started with a simple ad.
“It was $69.95 to move the furniture,” Russo said.
And the mover was a man named James Ellis.
“He’s fully insured,” she said.
Ellis had employees do the move last April. Russo says her furniture arrived trashed. Ellis blamed Russo and she blamed him – it ultimately ended up in court, where a judge agreed with Russo and Ellis was ordered to pay up $3,800.
Russo did everything right.
She documented the damage and when she couldn’t get Ellis to reimburse her, she to her case to a district justice. When she got a ruling in her favor, she got something called a write of execution that the Allegheny County Sheriff served on Ellis. But again, he never paid.
“I want my money back that I was awarded, that’s all I want,” Russo said.
That’s when KDKA’s Marty Griffin stepped in.
The first stop was the sheriff’s department, where they are buried in cases just like this one.
“We serve 38,000 writs a year,” said one officer.
The numbers are staggering. In Russo’s case, the final step for the sheriff’s department would be to seize some of James Ellis’ property and auction it off to pay the money he owed her.
“We can go out there and look at the property and levy the property for the value of the judgement,” said the officer.
James Ellis wanted nothing to do with that.
“The judge said we’re wrong, I gotta pay for it,” Ellis said.
Ellis never ducked Griffin’s calls and promised he would pay Russo – and did by writing two checks for the full amount of damage.
“I stepped up with you because you made me aware there was a problem, I didn’t know it,” said Ellis. “So when you called me, I like addressing problems. I’m not running from nobody, I address issues.”
Griffin hand delivered the checks to Russo.
“You made the difference,” she said. “Not the legal system, you did it.”