Hot pink money laundering

The low-stakes moving company drama we all need right now.

There are many things I considered writing about today. For example, Elon Musk is suing media watchdog Media Matters for accurately reporting that ads for major corporations do indeed show up next to Nazi content. There’s also the rumor that Jezebel is entertaining four different offers to bring it back from journalism extinction. And of course, there’s the Israeli hostage swap and temporary ceasefire in Gaza

Instead, I’m going to write about an insane TV commercial I saw and, naturally, the subsequent rabbit hole it led me down.

I had MSNBC on in the background Tuesday afternoon when this commercial for a local moving company came on. Quick background: Dumbo Moving and Piece of Cake Moving are two of the top moving companies in New York City. The green and hot pink trucks, respectively, are ubiquitous around town. Okay, now watch:

I thought for sure I’d misheard the money laundering part, but when it aired again a little while later, the script was confirmed. 

So I quickly got to googling about the NYC moving wars I never knew I needed. Here’s what I learned:

  • In 2016, Lior Rachmany, founder and CEO of Dumbo, collaborated with an IT company to develop exclusive and proprietary software to help manage his business. His then-employee Volodymyr Plokhykh connected him with the company. 

  • The software was implemented in 2018 and the company doubled its revenue after the first year of using it. 

  • Piece of Cake Moving & Storage was founded by Vojin Popovic, a former Dumbo manager, in 2017.

  • Rachmany was totally fine with Popovic starting his own thing. “I told him, ‘I’m giving you millions of dollars of information no one gave me. I learned the hard way, but I want to keep a good relationship. There will come a day when you’re going to want to step on my toes,’” Rachmany said of Popvic in a 2022 NY Magazine interview. “He says, ‘Don’t worry, boss. That will never happen.’”

  • Other moving companies (including Piece of Cake) were like wow, Dumbo is really killing it. We should probably get our hands on their software.

  • Plokhykh made an unauthorized copy of the proprietary software in 2018 and sold it to a bunch of competitors, including Piece of Cake. They implemented it, and a couple years later, Dumbo caught on.

  • Dumbo sued Piece of Cake and two other competitors in April 2022 for intellectual property theft. They all tried to fight it, but a judge ruled in August 2022 that Dumbo had a case. There haven’t been any updates since then.

Which brings us to this summer when Dumbo first began airing that ad—at least, that’s when they posted it to their YouTube page. The caption of the video reads, “At Dumbo Moving, we understand the unique challenges of moving in NYC and we know that to become and maintain the status of the most resourceful, most advanced, most affordable moving company, you need to dedicate yourself to the community's needs through discipline, hard work, and honesty. Not through sweet words, even if they looked like a piece of cake.”

Not exactly subtle. But no further mention of the money laundering. When I look at the video comments, I spot an ominous one from someone identified as Nicola Drincic:

Hi Lior. 

How is 2021H2B program law suit. 

As I understand you lost and need to pay 1 million dollars. 

It's seems to me that soon you will lose your house. 

Kind regards

When I look up Drincic on LinkedIn, it says he works at Dumbo. But based on the comment above, I can’t imagine that’s current. It’s possible he works for one of the competitors who were part of the suit, but I haven’t confirmed.

(As an aside, the hot pink Piece of Cake vans are absolutely everywhere these days—to the point where I’ve definitely wondered how they got so big so fast. In that 2022 story, Rachmany and other companies said they reportedly thought Piece of Cake was being subsidized by a funder: but in 2021, Popovic said that his business was, “completely private and 100% funded by our own profits…We have not once discussed outside investment.”)

The Better Business Bureau site has a bunch of complaints for Piece of Cake about standard moving company issues—damaged furniture, showing up late, being hostile—but no mention of the laundering. There’s absolutely nothing I can find publicly about Rachmany’s thinly-veiled accusation, so I’ve reached out to him to learn more.

I hope this was the low-stakes drama you needed. Happy Thanksgiving!

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