New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs
Charges 25 Unlicensed Movers Nabbed in
"Operation Mother's Attic" Sting
NEWARK – The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs is charging 25 unlicensed moving companies, and assessing fines of up to $2,500 each, as part of an undercover initiative targeting unlicensed and uninsured moving companies.
The four-day sting operation took place from Monday, June 27, through Thursday, June 30. In the operation's initial phase, Consumer Affairs investigators posed as consumers who needed to move personal items out of storage and into a house. They booked appointments with unlicensed movers who advertised on Craigslist or other websites.
Of the 25 unlicensed movers who were contacted, a total of 17 moving companies responded by sending workers to a self-storage facility in Bridgewater – and unwittingly into the second phase of "Operation Mother's Attic."
Upon arriving at the self-storage facility, the unlicensed movers were stopped and questioned by Consumer Affairs investigators, as well as by State Troopers who checked driver and vehicle records, and inspected trucks for mechanical defects.
"According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, over 37 million people across the country change residences each year," said Attorney General Paula T. Dow. "Our laws are designed to ensure that those who entrust their moves to companies operating within our state, don't fall prey to fly-by-night operators who have little regard for consumers or their cherished belongings."
Under State law, all movers who operate intrastate, from point to point within New Jersey, must be licensed by the Division of Consumer Affairs. Licensed movers must protect consumers' goods by maintaining cargo liability insurance, workers' compensation insurance, and bodily injury and property damage insurance. Licensed companies must also maintain a bona fide business address in New Jersey, and they must provide consumers with a written estimate of the cost of the move.
"Last year alone, the Division of Consumer Affairs received nearly 160 consumer complaints against moving companies," said Thomas R. Calcagni, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. "In many instances, predatory movers arbitrarily jacked up the total cost of a move by as much as 1000 percent over bogus estimates, and then held hostage consumers' belongings until the outrageous billing demands were met." Calcagni explained, "The bad actors don't just harm consumers – they harm the reputation of an entire industry. By requiring movers to be licensed, we're requiring accountability."
Conducted in partnership with the New Jersey State Police, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Somerset County Office of Consumer Affairs, and the Somerset County Sheriff's Department, last week's sting resulted in several surprises to authorities.
One individual, employed by Premiere Relocation Services, arrived at the sting location in a P.C. Richard & Son delivery truck. The driver evidently worked for P.C. Richard and "borrowed" the delivery truck without the appliance and electronics company's knowledge or approval. Upon citing the driver, Consumer Affairs investigators contacted P.C. Richards representatives, who arrived to claim the truck. Premiere Relocation Services is a licensed mover, but will receive a notice of violation and civil penalty for using an unlicensed moving vehicle.
One moving company worker had an outstanding warrant, was arrested by the State Troopers on the scene, and was subsequently released to the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Two movers attempted to flee the scene but found themselves trapped in a nearby parking area.
Just In Time Moving & Delivery had its vehicle impounded for operating without proper registration.
Two movers had suspended drivers' licenses.
A total of 25 unlicensed movers will receive notices of violation and civil penalties of up to $2,500 each, as a result of the investigation and sting. If they apply for licensure within 30 days, the civil penalties will be reduced to $1,250. Each mover has the option of requesting a hearing to contest the administrative charges.
Of the 25 unlicensed movers, workers from the following 17 showed up at the self-storage facility:
• Andres Acosta, advertising as "Daniel," of Guttenburg
• Best Movers, of New York, NY
• Fedaa Elabed, advertising as "Mike," of Cliffside Park
• Frank Wood Transportation, of Bordentown
• Helping 2 Move, of Bayonne
• House Movers, of Jersey City
• H.P. Vandevere & Son, of Roselle
• JC's Moving, of Sewell
• Just In Time Moving & Delivery, of Westhampton
• Mighty Men Movers, of Maple Shade
• Ortiz Trucking, of Jersey City
• Stevenson's Movers, of East Orange
• Stress Less Moving, of New York, NY
• A Van and a Hand, of North Plainfield
• Van Express, of Glen Ridge
• Victor Csik, advertising as "James," of Asbury Park
• Premiere Relocation Services, of Edison (as noted above, this is a licensed moving company but is being cited for using an unlicensed moving vehicle)
An additional seven companies, who advertised for moving work but did not send workers to the self-storage facility, will also receive notices of violation and fines of up to $2,500.
Advice for Consumers:
Before hiring a mover, review the tips available from the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs at www.NJConsumerAffairs.com/brief/mover.pdf
• Call the Division of Consumer Affairs at 800-242-5846 to learn whether the mover you're considering is licensed. Be sure to ask whether consumer complaints have been filed against the mover.
• Be sure to obtain a written estimate from the mover you select. The cost can be estimated on an hourly rate, the rate of your shipment and miles traveled, or by cubic measurement.
• Never pack jewelry, money, or valuable papers with your goods to be moved. The mover is not responsible for items of extraordinary value.
• Be sure to check your goods as they are being delivered. If loss or damage is discovered, notify the mover immediately. A damage claim can be filed up to 90 days after the move date.
• Unless you purchase additional coverage, the mover is required to compensate you only up to 60 cents per pound, per article, for damages.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website, www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov, or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.