NJ Division of Consumer Affairs Fines 26 Unlicensed Movers Nabbed in "Operation Mother's Attic" Sting
NEWARK – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs are citing 26 unlicensed moving companies with violating state law, and assessing civil penalties of $2,500 each, as the result of an undercover sting operation. In addition, two of the companies face additional civil penalties of $25,000 from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which participated in the State-led sting operation.
"Operation Mother's Attic," led by the State Division of Consumer Affairs, focused on moving companies that solicited intrastate moves – from point to point within New Jersey – without a State license, in violation of New Jersey law. The 26 companies were cited by the State for this reason. FMCSA filed its additional penalties against two of the movers because FMCSA alleged they performed interstate moves – crossing state lines – without having the Federal operating authority necessary to perform interstate transportation in violation of Federal regulations.
"Horror stories about predatory movers are all too common. By its very nature, the moving industry touches the lives of consumer when they are vulnerable and when they must rely on strangers to transport their valued possessions," Acting Attorney General Hoffman said. "These situations create the potential for abuse. We are enforcing New Jersey's licensing laws in order to protect consumers and, just as importantly, to ensure a level playing field for New Jersey's many honest and licensed moving companies."
The sting operation took place from November 19 through 22. In the preceding days, State Consumer Affairs investigators posed as consumers seeking to make an ordinary household move. The investigators booked appointments with suspected unlicensed movers who solicited work with online listings.
All 26 unlicensed movers booked appointments with the investigators. They sent moving crews to a self-storage facility in Ledgewood, and unwittingly into the second phase of the sting. Upon arriving at the self-storage site, the unlicensed movers were confronted by Consumer Affairs investigators – and by investigators from the FMCSA, agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and a transportation compliance unit of the New Jersey State Police.
Approximately 290 moving companies are currently licensed to perform intrastate moves (from point to point within the state) in New Jersey. The Division of Consumer Affairs received 89 formal consumer complaints about moving companies in 2013.
"The goal of this undercover operation is to bring these moving companies into compliance with the law, or keep them out of our State – to protect New Jersey's consumers, and to ensure a competitive playing field for New Jersey's 290 duly licensed moving companies," Director Kanefsky said. "In addition, we have become one of the first states to join with the U.S. Department of Transportation in a partnership that will enable the Division of Consumer Affairs to enforce federal laws pertaining to interstate movers."
Under State law, all movers who operate intrastate must be licensed by the State Division of Consumer Affairs. State-licensed movers must protect consumer's goods by maintaining cargo liability insurance, workers' compensation insurance, and bodily injury and property damage insurance. Licensed companies also must maintain a bona fide business address in New Jersey. They must register each moving vehicle they use in the state, and keep the vehicles insured and in compliance with inspection requirements. Movers also must provide consumers with a written estimate of the cost of the move.
Director Kanefsky noted that, through an agreement recently signed by the Division of Consumer Affairs, New Jersey has entered into an agreement with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, under which the State will begin enforcing the federal laws that apply to interstate movers – in addition to the state laws that apply to movers who limit their activities to New Jersey.
"Unscrupulous movers that attempt to evade consumer protection regulations are often as likely to disregard safety requirements that serve to protect everyone traveling on our highways and roads," FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro said. "We are pleased to be a partner with the state of New Jersey's Attorney General's Office to bring the weight of state and federal consequences upon rogue movers that run outside the rules of law."
Some statistics from the sting operation:
- 26 unlicensed moving companies face State civil penalties of $2,500 each, for soliciting intrastate moving work without a State license.
- Two of the companies face Federal civil penalties of $25,000 each, for allegedly having performed interstate moves without the necessary Federal operating authority.
- Two moving company employees were arrested by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers on site, due to outstanding warrants.
- Despite the requirement that moving companies keep their vehicles properly registered and insured, seven unlicensed moving companies appeared with rental trucks or a rental trailer from U-Haul, Budget, or other rental companies.
- State Police condemned one moving company's truck for dangerous safety violations, including severely warn tires and leaking oil.
- Eight of the unlicensed movers had listings on Craigslist. Five had listings on Angie's List. Nine used their own websites. The rest were listed in online third-party moving websites or other Internet venues. Director Kanefsky noted that an attractive online listing does not mean a company is licensed or reputable.
All 26 unlicensed movers who booked appointments with the Consumer Affairs investigators now face Notices of Violation and civil penalties of $2,500 each. The penalties will be reduced to $1,250 each for any company that applies for State licensure within 30 days. Each mover also has the option of requesting an administrative hearing to contest the Notice of Violation and civil penalty. Director Kanefsky noted that four of the companies have already submitted applications, after contacting the Division for guidance on the qualifications for a license.
The following moving companies are alleged to be unlicensed, and face State civil penalties as a result of the operation. The companies have an opportunity to request a hearing before the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, if they dispute the allegations against them.
- 2 Men and a Truck, of Garfield
- A Few Good Guys With a Truck, of East Orange
- Active Moving, Inc., aka Manhattan Movers, aka Best Movers, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Alessi Moving, Inc., d/b/a Alessi Moving & Storage, of Stockholm
- Always Moving Services, Inc., aka NYC Affordable Moving, of East Orange
- Blue Star Moving & Storage, LLC, of Paterson
- Cardinal Moving, Inc., of Wayne
- Cheap as Heck Movers, LLC, of East Orange
- D&D Moving & Delivery, aka NNJ Moving Help, of Palisades Park
- Deliveries Made Correct Enterprise, LLC, aka Budget Movers, of East Orange
- E.J. Mayer Transportation Systems, Inc., d/b/a EJ Mayer Moving, of Westwood
- Elite Movers, of Paterson
- George's Moving & Trucking Co., Inc. aka George's & Son's Moving, of Rockaway
- Good Life Moving Services, of Orange
- Jaco Movers, LLC, of Middlesex
- Jesus Loves Moving, LLC, of Newark
- Just In Time Moving and Storage, Inc., of Kenilworth
- Lakewood Movers, LLC, of Lakewood
- M4U Inc., d/b/a Moving For You, of Ridgefield
- Metro Movers, LLC, of Jersey City
- Morristown Moving Services, LLC d/b/a M.M.S Delivery Service, aka MMS Moving Service, LLC, of Waldwick
- Moving Help, aka A1 Movers, of Parsippany
- Plantwurx aka Van & a Man, of Fort Lee
- Practical Movers, Inc., aka South Jersey Movers, Inc., of Philadelphia, P.A.
- Shamrock Moving & Storage, Inc., of Galloway
- TLC Movers, LLC, of Marlboro
Cardinal Moving and Shamrock Moving & Storage also face $25,000 Federal civil penalties.
Advice for Consumers:
Before hiring a mover,
review the tips available from the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. They include:
- Call the Division of Consumer Affairs at 800-242-5846 to verify the license status of any mover you consider hiring. Ask whether consumer complaints have been filed against the mover.
- Obtain a written estimate from the mover you select. The cost can be estimated on an hourly rate, by weight and miles traveled, or by cubic measurement.
- Never pack jewelry, money, or valuable documents with your goods to be moved. The mover is not responsible for items of extraordinary value.
- Check your goods as they are being delivered. If any are lost or damaged, 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.
Supervising Investigator Murat Botas and Investigators Vincent Buonanno and Oscar Mejia, of the Division of Consumer Affairs' Office of Consumer Protection, conducted this investigation. Deputy Attorney Natalie Serock and Deputy Attorney General Lorraine Rak, Chief of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section, represented the State in this matter.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.
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