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Moving companies sued after home-invasion robbery

Editor's note: This version has been updated to correct errors that inadvertently implied Curtis Lee Wiles was involved in the robbery. He was in jail at the time. Also, his attempted murder charge in an unrelated shooting was reduced to attempted first-degree assault, for which he was convicted.

A Talent couple are suing two moving companies for $3,283,000 after a man who helped move their possessions later returned with an accomplice and took part in a robbery that included beating the husband.

The case is scheduled to go to trial at the end of October in Jackson County Circuit Court.

The elderly couple and their daughter Lori Ward, who has been appointed their guardian, brought the lawsuit against Lile North American Moving and Storage, which has a branch in Medford, and California-based Elite Moving Solutions.

The lawsuit claims the couple hired Elite Moving Solutions to truck the couple's possessions from California to their new home in Talent. Elite Moving Solutions allegedly got a referral from Lile Moving and Storage in Medford to use two local men to help unpack the truck.

The lawsuit alleges Lile Moving and Storage failed to do criminal background checks on the men. It claims the Medford company habitually referred untrained, unvetted day laborers to other moving companies to help their drivers unload trucks — and expected those companies to return the favor when Lile needed help outside the area.

The resulting robbery and assault on the husband were not the result of highly unusual circumstances, as claimed by the moving companies' lawyers, but a "natural and foreseeable result of allowing criminals into the sanctuary of the (couple's) home," the couple's attorney, Kelly Andersen, alleged in a court document. "To prevent such access by such people is precisely why criminal background checks should have been done in the first place," Andersen said.

In July 2013, Curtis Lee Wiles, who had a past assault conviction, and Jason Ray Morgan were helping move the couple's possessions into the house when they dropped a box. Wiles estimated about $20,000 worth of jewelry fell out, according to a June 4, 2014, interview between Wiles and the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.

Wiles said they also talked to the husband, who said he didn't trust banks. Wiles said he believed the husband was Jewish and "figured he would have money," according to a sheriff's report on the interview.

The two movers casually mentioned robbing the home, saying, "If anyone needed to rob a place, it would be a good one," Wiles said, according to the sheriff's report.

Morgan later told investigators that he and Wiles noticed items of value during the move and made mental notes about the property.

In a deposition Morgan gave from prison, he alleged that in November 2013, he, Wiles and a woman returned to the home with the intention of robbing the place.

The woman went to the house, said her car had broken down and asked to use the phone. When she returned to the car, she told the men she had seen children in the house. The trio decided to abort their robbery attempt, Morgan alleged in the deposition.

The need for money came to a head in February 2014 after Wiles shot a man in the hip who was inside a vehicle with a woman and a child. Lodged at the Jackson County Jail on attempted murder and other charges, Wiles wanted to raise money for his bail, according to monitored phone calls he made to Morgan and another woman that are detailed in a sheriff's report.

The three discussed an idea to have Morgan return to the house of the "Jews in Talent" to get money for Wiles' bail, according to the report.

With Wiles locked in jail, another man, James Lewis Turner, agreed to help Morgan rob the couple's house, the lawsuit alleges.

"All three men intended to split their plunder, using some of it to bail Wiles out of jail," the lawsuit claims.

On May 3, 2014, Morgan and Turner, wearing masks and carrying at least one shotgun, entered the couple's house. The husband was savagely beaten in the head, back and torso with the barrel and butt of the shotgun. The two intruders then stuffed the husband and wife in a small water-heater closet, propping a door against the door so they couldn't escape. The thieves stole jewelry, cash, coins and a car, the lawsuit said.

The couple were trapped in the closet until they were found and let out by a sheriff's deputy, according to a sheriff's office report.

The husband told investigators the robbers had taken about $45,000 in cash stored in a cardboard box, plus silver coins and bullion worth $25,000 to $35,000. About $1,500 to $2,000 worth of jewelry was missing. He said the robbers had put the items in a black suitcase they found in the house, the report said.

In June 2014, Wiles was convicted of a lesser charge of attempted first-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon and delivery of methamphetamine for the incident in which he shot the man in the hip, according to court records.

In the spring of 2015, Morgan and Turner pleaded guilty in the robbery case and were each sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison. They were also ordered to pay restitution, court records show.

Moving company safety

In the lawsuit on behalf of the couple, Andersen said Lile North American Moving and Storage is misleading customers by claiming to use certified movers.

"I don't think the public has any idea when they engage a professional moving company that they're not getting what's represented on the website and in the ads," Andersen said in a phone interview. "If the truck is from outside the area, the people doing the unloading are often minimally skilled day laborers who don't go through any criminal background check."

The Medford branch's website continues to say it uses American Moving and Storage Association certified moving consultants, and courteous, professionally trained crews to ensure a safe, easy and stress-free move.

The Medford company did not return a phone call seeking comment.

In a deposition, a representative from Elite Moving Systems said it's common for moving companies to contact other moving companies in an area to get recommendations for temporary, trained, experienced helpers to unload trucks. The representative said Elite trusted Lile because it was on an American Moving and Storage Association roster.

He said Lile has "a reliable source to help with these moves. This is what all moving companies in the country do. Obviously you can't put a crew of seven or eight people in a truck. And most drivers travel alone, so we all need help unloading, and this is what they do."

Ralph Spooner, attorney for Elite Moving Systems, declined to comment due to the pending litigation.

Ben Veralrud, an attorney for Lile North American Moving and Storage, disputed that Lile ever referred Wiles and Morgan to help unload the Talent couple's possessions. Regardless, he said a moving company should not be blamed for a robbery, especially one that occurs months later as part of an alleged scheme to raise bail money.

Veralrud said it wouldn't be fair to hold the moving company liable.

"The unfortunate, tragic home invasion by these two criminals was not linked in any way to an act by Lile," Veralrud said. "It was the result of independent criminal conduct by these two individuals."

— Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.