Castillo sent his package to Guatemala on Dec. 26. It had gifts for his family, mostly clothes and tools: sweaters, shoes, an electric sanding machine, wire cutters.
Castillo traveled to Guatemala in March intending to pick up the shipment and distribute the gifts, but found the box hadn’t arrived.
“It was embarrassing. It made me look bad in front of my family,” he said.
Castillo went to Medrano’s office in Guatemala City and found it was closed. At a smaller office outside the capital, he was told the box was stuck in customs in Honduras.
Several of Medrano’s customers in Miami claim to have received similar explanations for their missing shipments. On the Internet, complaints bubbled up in places as close as Georgia and as far as Seattle.
In March, Medrano Express moved its Miami office about three blocks to its current location on West Flagler Street. Erica Arteaga, the general manager of the company that owns the building where the office is located, said Medrano had trouble making rent payments from the beginning.
“They would pay in cash, and they would pay late,” she said. “I had to tell them, ‘Look, I’m embarrassed that I have to remind you every month.’ ”
More and more customers started showing up at Medrano’s office and complaining. The claims followed the same pattern: boxes weren’t delivered, Medrano employees claimed they were stuck in customs at various points in Central America, and the company’s headquarters and national toll-free number did not answer phone calls.
Meanwhile, customers and their shipments are left in the lurch.
Otto Rene Pozuelos, 55, said he lost about $3,000 worth of goods he sent to Guatemala, including five glucose measuring devices for a diabetic family member.
Jose Manuel Matute, 58, claims he lost about $700 in a shipment to Nicaragua. He said he was aggressively kicked out of Medrano’s office in May after complaining about his lost package.
“What’s happening there is a gigantic fraud,” Matute said.
In late June, the office on West Flagler Street closed, according to Arteaga. She is currently involved in eviction proceedings with the city of Miami to vacate the space, which she says is still packed floor to ceiling with boxes.
Arteaga is also in contact with the Federal Maritime Commission, which regulates companies that ship goods international by sea. Jennifer Gartlan, the deputy director of the agency’s consumer complaints section, said she could not confirm whether the agency was investigating Medrano but said they “are aware” of the situation.
Gartlan said the commission can work with customers to locate and recover their lost goods, and can also pursue civil action and other enforcement measures against companies that violate its rules.
Medrano’s representatives remain elusive, Arteaga said, although on Thursday night someone left another one of the company’s trucks in the office’s parking lot.
“We looked at our cameras and saw that someone dropped off a truck, but we couldn’t see who it was,” she said.
“I’m just hoping we can sort this out soon so that these people can get their belongings.”