NEWARK, N.J. — A partnership between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and the New Jersey Attorney General’s Division of Consumer Affairs resulted in the arrest of seven moving company employees who allegedly were in the United States illegally – including one who had previous criminal convictions for sexual abuse of a minor and criminal possession of a loaded firearm.
Nineteen companies face state 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. To date, two companies have applied for licensure and agreed to pay the reduced penalty. Each company also has the opportunity to contest the assertion that it violated the law.
“This sting operation – and our partnership with ICE and the New Jersey State Police – is protecting the people of New Jersey from significant potential harm, even as it helps prevent consumer fraud,” said John J. Hoffman, acting attorney general. “Moving companies must comply with our laws. Consumers should learn as much as possible about any moving company – including learning whether it is registered – before entrusting its employees with their belongings.”
“Too many consumers have been ripped off by movers who held their furniture and other goods hostage while demanding outrageously inflated prices,” said Steve Lee, acting director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. “Protecting consumers begins with our enforcement of New Jersey’s licensing laws.”
The sting operation began with Consumer Affairs investigators who posed as consumers seeking to make an ordinary household move. They booked appointments with 19 unlicensed movers who used online listings to solicit work.
The unlicensed companies sent moving crews to the location of the undercover investigators’ fictitious address in Wyckoff, and unwittingly into the second phase of the sting. Upon arriving at the address, the unlicensed movers were inspected by Consumer Affairs investigators, as well as ERO officers, New Jersey State Police, and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).