Illegal movers nabbed in ODOT sting
Law enforcement cracks down on unlicensed, uninsured movers during undercover operation
Three unlicensed household moving services were cited for multiple violations of state laws during a sting operation conducted in Lake Oswego Tuesday.
Over the course of several hours, workers from Northwest Student Movers, Easy Family Movers and Portlands Family Movers were issued citations both for failing to register their businesses with the Oregon Department of Transportation and for breaking state safety regulations.
The undercover enforcement operation was a joint effort between the Clackamas County Sheriffs Office and ODOT.
Dave Thompson, public information officer for ODOT, said the exercise was primarily about consumer protection.
We want you to be safe when you invite people into your house, Thompson said. These businesses made a choice to ignore the law. And that puts the consumer at risk.
Thompson said regulating the moving industry helps control prices and prevent consumer fraud.
As part of the certification process, movers and shippers must conduct background checks on all employees. Moving companies cannot employ workers who have served time for a felony conviction within the last five years.
Licensed movers are also required to maintain cargo insurance in case of missing or broken items meet federal safety requirements for their vehicles and post a standardized list of prices and hourly rates, called a tariff.
This is all for your protection, Thompson said. When you go around those protections trying to get (movers) on the cheap, youre putting yourself at risk.
Michael Fevurly, ODOT compliance specialist, emphasized that when transactions with illegal moving companies go bad, the customer is often left holding the bag.
According to Fevurly, many uncertified moving services lack a legal storefront relying on ads on bulletin board websites like Craigslist. Then, if items are lost, damaged or stolen during transit, customers might have little to no legal recourse.
When youre an illegal entity, youre not on the radar, Fevurly said. And you cant serve a phone number with a warrant.
Fevurly said that while registering with ODOT only costs $300, the added expense of insurance premiums and reporting income on state and federal tax returns leaves some company owners reluctant to register.
Northwest Student Movers Matt Gladheim and Alex Brodsky were met by Fevurly, armed deputies from the sheriffs office and members of the media during Tuesdays sting.
When the movers arrived at the rental property in the Lake Grove area at about 8:30 a.m., they were cited and given a fresh, unfilled copy of the ODOT application form. Their vehicle a rented U-Haul was also inspected.
Both Brodsky, 20, and Gladheim, 29, contended they were students at Portland Community College. They said their boss had never told them that movers needed to be certified or that their company wasnt.
Were just trying to make money while going to school, Gladheim said. I didnt know I had to pay to work.
Ill get a call from my dad if (this) is on the news, Brodsky said.
At a nearby parking lot, sheriffs Dep. Bryan Morris noted several violations associated with the movers vehicle and operating status.
For operating without authority, Gladheim and Brodsky were jointly handed a $435 ticket. They also lacked a medical certificate in essence, approval from a doctor for both operators to lift and drive heavy machinery and were fined another $160.
Morris also issued the movers two warnings. Their vehicle lacked a fire extinguisher, required by federal law, and a certificate of registration. If hed cited them, that would have been another $595 in fines.
Humberto Reyes, owner of Easy Family Movers, was another illegal operator caught in the sting.
Reyes said his accountant had promised him his business was legal and that he didnt know anything was wrong.
I pay all my (taxes) state, federal, everything. I even went to Salem to report my business, Reyes said. But I dont know about this (application). If I know, I can pay. No problem.
To view a list of all certified moving companies in the state, visit oregon.gov/ODOT/MCT/Pages/MOVING.aspx.Add a comment