CLIFTON, N.J. -- State investigators posing as customers produced $2,500 fines against unlicensed moving companies from Clifton and Woodland Park during a covert sting dubbed "Operation Mother's Attic," authorities announced Friday.
They also picked off several people for having small amounts of pot -- and detained three for immigration violations.
Smart Move Industries of Clifton and M&M Moving & Storage of Woodland Park were among 21 companies cited in New Jersey, Rockland and Staten Island after state Division of Consumer Affairs investigators staged the late-October sting from a public storage facility in Bernardsville, Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said.
The detectives booked movers advertising on various websites at designated job sites, Porrino said.
When the movers showed up, they were met by members of the unit, as well as agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a transportation compliance unit of the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) and the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office.
In addition to the Notices of Violations (NOVs), seven arrests were made by NJSP for possession of marijuana under fifty grams and one outstanding traffic warrant, Porrino said, adding that three people were detained for ICE violations.
“Public movers are often granted unfettered access to consumers’ homes, and entrusted with their most valuable possessions," Porrino said. "To protect consumers from fraud and other risks, we must make sure these individuals are properly vetted and regulated through our licensing system."
“Unscrupulous moving companies can be a nightmare for consumers,” added Steve Lee, the director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “From negligently destroying valuable property to holding possessions hostage in exchange for exorbitant price increases, these bad actors can wreak havoc on people’s lives.
" The best way to avoid predatory movers is to make sure the companies you hire are licensed and in compliance with our consumer protection laws.”
State law requires all intrastate movers (those performing residential moves that both begin and end in New Jersey) to be licensed by the DCA. There are an estimated 270 legally licensed intrastate moves in New Jersey, Porrino said.
Movers must also protect consumers' goods by maintaining cargo liability insurance, workers' compensation insurance, and bodily injury and property damage insurance.
They must register each moving vehicle they use in New Jersey, and keep the vehicles properly marked and insured, in compliance with state regulations.
Movers also must provide consumers with a written estimate of the costs of the move.
Other companies cited: ($2,500 fine):
· QMS PLUS PRO MOVERS, Paramus, NJ
· HOUSE MOVERS, Secaucus, NJ
· ARON DAY MOV. & DELIVERY, Nyack, NY
· ABC MOVING SERVICES, Phillipsburg, NJ
· MOBILE MOVERS, Helmetta, NJ
· RELOCATION SOLUTION MOVING, Old Bridge, NJ
· SJS MOVING & TRANSPORTATION, Rahway, NJ
· RUSH HOUR MOVING, Marlton, NJ
· ROUND ONE MOVING, Trenton, NJ
· TOP MOVERS, Linden, NJ
· R&B MOVERS, Runnemede, NJ
· ACTION PIANO MOVING, New City, NY
· KEYBOARD EXPRESS, Toms River, NJ
· GO TO M&S, Staten Island, NY
· DELTA RELOCATION, Union City, NJ
· ELVIS DIRT CHEAP MOVING, Philadelphia, PA
· TOP SHELF MOVERS, Raritan, NJ
· MORRISTOWN MOVING SERVICES, Waldwick, NJ
· MOVING SOLUTIONS, Bayonne, NJ
Three other companies are under review by the Division as a result of the sting operation, Porrino said.
"The assessed civil penalty for unlicensed operation will be reduced to $1,250 for any mover that applies for state licensure within 30 days of receiving the NOV," he noted. "Each mover also has the option of requesting mitigation to reduce the civil penalty or an administrative hearing to contest the Notice of Violation and civil penalty."
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, Barby Menna and Jesse Maniero of the DCA’s Office of Consumer Protection conducted the investigation.
Deputy Attorneys General Erin M. Greene and Russell M. Smith, Jr. of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law are handling the case.