Home News Stories 2004 March Interstate Moving Companies Charged With Fraud

Interstate Moving Companies Charged With Fraud

The Case of the Moving Violations
Interstate Moving Companies Charged with Fraud

03/16/04

movviolation1.jpgConsider this scenario: You accepted a job offer in another state. You have to move all your possessions and household goods and can't do it by yourself. You search the Internet for "moving companies" and find a company that provides online estimates and promises to make your moving experience a pleasant one. The estimate you receive is too hard to pass up. You contact the company, agree on what sounds like a fantastic price, and arrange for the movers to come to your house to load your household goods.

After your goods have been loaded on the truck, the foreman tells you that because your goods took up more space in the truck than the movers estimated, or because they used a lot more packing materials than they expected, the move is going to cost you more--as much as two or three times more than the estimate--and the movers want the money, and want it in cash, or they will not deliver your furniture.

Imaginary scenario? Nope, it actually happened...and to thousands of people...victimized by the criminal practices of 16 Florida-based moving companies. The good news is that a joint U.S. Department of Transportation/FBI investigation that used undercover agents posing as customers resulted in the indictment of 74 owners and employees of these companies. The indictments charged offenses of Conspiracy, Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, Extortion Money Laundering and Bill of Lading fraud. To date, the indictments have resulted in dozens of convictions.

Modus operandi: Pretty much the same for each company: The companies would give a low estimate for the price of the move and after arriving at the customer's house, the movers would rush customers through the paperwork, causing them to sign blank or incomplete bills of lading and other documents. It was only after all the customer's worldly goods were packed--safe and sound, they thought--on what was frequently a rental truck, that the company would increase the price. And when customers refused to pay the jacked-up prices, their furniture was held hostage. It was usually stored in a damp and dirty warehouse at an undisclosed location. In many cases, the goods would be ransacked and damaged, and valuables stolen. Some of the goods were actually auctioned off or worse yet, abandoned.

The lesson: It's an old adage, but we should still abide by it: If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is!