PUBLIC SAFETY: Two Bergen County moving companies were among 19 in New Jersey and Rockland County cited by state authorities with violations that has cost them civil penalties of up to $2,500 each following an undercover sting operated from a Wyckoff industrial complex.
What’s more, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs investigation — in conjunction with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — led to the arrests of seven illegal aliens, Acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman said this morning.
Three had previous convictions — including a Salvadoran national who sexually abused a minor and had a loaded firearm when he was caught, an Ecuadoran with two DWIs; and another from El Salvador who Hoffman said an MS-13 gang member.
One had been deported and re-entered the country, he said.
New Jersey State Police also arrested three moving company employees who were wanted on warrants for unpaid child support and traffic tickets.
Arrow Moving Systems of Moonachie and Ironmen Movers of East Rutherford were among those cited ( see list below ).
ALSO: Jovani’s Movers and Pozo Moving and Storage, both of North Bergen, along with three from Rockland County: MoveOurStuff.com of West Haverstraw, Santi Express of Valley Cottage and Slattery Moving & Storage of Nyack..
The operation not only “is protecting New Jerseyans from significant potential harm, even as it helps prevent consumer fraud” — it also sends a message to citizens, as well, Hoffman said.
“Consumers should learn as much as possible about any moving company – including learning whether it is registered – before entrusting its employees with their belongings,” he said.
The early November 2014 sting began with Consumer Affairs investigators posing as consumers seeking to make routine household moves.
They booked appointments with unlicensed movers who used online listings to solicit work, then had them send crews to the sham Wyckoff address — which the employees quickly discovered wasn’t a home.
There, the unlicensed movers were inspected by Consumer Affairs investigators, as well as ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers, New Jersey State Police, and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
One driver reportedly tried to flee but was caught by state troopers and returned.
“Too many consumers have been ripped off by movers who held their furniture and other goods hostage while demanding outrageously inflated prices,” Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said. “Protecting consumers begins with our enforcement of New Jersey’s licensing laws.”
“The outstanding partnership between ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs once again demonstrates the necessity for law enforcement agencies to work in concert to keep our streets safe,” said John Tsoukaris, ICE ERO field office director. “ICE will continue to work with our law enforcement partners in New Jersey to arrest and remove convicted criminals and other priority aliens.”
State law requires all intrastate movers (those performing residential moves that both begin and end in New Jersey) to be licensed by the DCA.
They must protect consumers’ goods by maintaining cargo liability insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, and bodily injury and property damage insurance.
They also must register each moving vehicle they use in New Jersey, and keep the vehicles properly marked and insured, in compliance with State regulations.
And they must provide consumers with a written estimate of the costs of the move.
There are approximately 310 licensed intrastate movers in New Jersey, Hoffman said.
· Nineteen companies face civil penalties of $2,500 each, for soliciting intrastate moves without the required New Jersey license. If a company applies for State licensure within 30 days, this penalty will be reduced to $1,250. Each company has the opportunity to contest the assertion that it violated the law. To date, seven of the companies have paid penalty amounts totaling $12,500. Two movers have become licensed, and two more have submitted applications for licensure.
· Two moving companies sent drivers who did not have valid driver’s licenses.
· Despite the requirement that moving companies must use moving vehicles that are properly registered and insured, three companies sent Budget rental trucks.
· Most of the companies solicited through online listings. Ten used their own, often professional-looking websites. Seven used Craigslist and/or Angie’s List listings. The rest used other online venues. Acting Director Lee noted that an attractive online listing does not mean a company is licensed or reputable.
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.
· An estimator is required by law to come to the consumer’s home to provide an estimate.
· 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.
Team Leader Murat Botas and Investigators Vincent Buonanno, Oscar Mejia, and Ediz Laypan, of the Division of Consumer Affairs’ Office of Consumer Protection, conducted the investigation, Hoffman said.