Sting Operation by New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Catches 29 Unlicensed Movers in “Operation Mother's Attic”

NEWARK – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division of Consumer Affairs today announced that 29 unlicensed movers have been issued Notices of Violation (“NOVs”) as a result of “Operation Mother’s Attic, a State-led undercover sting targeting public movers suspected of operating without licenses. Each unlicensed mover was also assessed a $2,500 civil penalty

The sting operation occurred over the course of four days in April 2018. Investigators from the Division’s Office of Consumer Protection (“OCP”) posed as individuals planning to move from an upscale neighborhood in Montville. The investigators found various unlicensed moving companies advertising online and hired them for their “move.” The movers drove to Montville, expecting to find a luxury home full of items to load, and were instead met by a team of OCP investigators, who issued them NOVs for operating without licenses.

Also awaiting the movers were members of the State Police’s Mobile Safety Freight Unit, who conducted vehicle safety inspections on their trucks, and members of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”), who checked for verification that out-of-state movers were registered with the FMCSA to engage in interstate operations.

One out-of-state moving company cited in the last Operation Mother’s Attic sting in 2016 was among the unlicensed movers caught this year. Go To Moving & Storage of Staten Island, New York was cited as a second-time offender and assessed an enhanced civil penalty of $5,000.

“An unlicensed moving company can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare,” said Attorney General Grewal. “They’ve been known to hold truckloads of property hostage until the customer pays an extortionate fee. And these unlicensed movers often don’t carry adequate insurance, creating the risk that homeowners will be left high and dry if their property is seriously damaged during the move. That’s why we regulate the industry – and why we crack down on rogue operators.”

“Operation Mother’s Attic is a proactive effort to identify and weed out movers doing business outside the Division’s oversight,” said Paul R. Rodríguez, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “By requiring movers to abide by our state’s public movers’ licensing laws, we are protecting consumers against fraud and other risks.”

State law requires all intrastate movers (those performing residential moves that both begin and end in New Jersey) to be licensed by the Division of Consumer Affairs and to observe the statutes and regulations concerning the storage and transportation of household goods. Those laws require movers to maintain cargo liability insurance, workers' compensation insurance, and bodily injury and property damage insurance. Movers also must provide the Division with proof of vehicle registration and insurance coverage, and must include the mover’s license number on the outside of the vehicle, as required by State regulations. Movers also must provide consumers with a written estimate of the costs of the move. There are approximately 320 licensed public movers in New Jersey.

The public movers cited for operating without a license are:

Each mover has the option of seeking mitigation or requesting an administrative hearing to contest the NOV and civil penalty.

Also as a result of this year’s Operation Mother’s Attic, the Division issued warning letters to three licensed public movers for alleged advertising violations:

The State Police’s Mobile Safety Freight Unit’s inspections found 29 motor vehicle violations, five of them serious enough to put the vehicles out of service. Three drivers were prohibited from driving trucks away from the scene because of motor vehicle violations, including not having a valid driver’s license or not having a proper license. Two people were placed under arrest for outstanding warrants, and one person was arrested for possession of under 50 grams of marijuana.
The Morris County Sheriff’s Office, and the Montville Police Department also assisted in carrying out Operation Mother’s Attic.

Advice for Consumers:

Before hiring a mover, review the tips available from the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. They include:

Chief Investigator Edward George and Investigators Murat Botas, Vincent Buonanno, Roger Hines, Luis Zuniga and Oscar Mejia of the Division of Consumer Affairs’ Office of Consumer Protection conducted this investigation.

Deputy Attorneys General Eric Boden, Robert Holup and Chanel Van Dyke of the Division of Law represented the Division 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 a 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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