Investigators suspend web of related movers in Florida and South Carolina
WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced today that its Moving Fraud Task Force has shut down five household goods moving companies in Florida, South Carolina and Maryland for holding customer shipments hostage and failing to turn over records related to their investigations.
"The last thing families should have to worry about during a move is whether or not their goods will be held hostage by a dishonest moving company," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "FMCSA's moving fraud investigators are cracking down on movers that take advantage of unsuspecting customers and working hard to educate families on how to avoid them in the first place."
The five movers who lost their authority to operate:
- Allegiant Van Lines, Inc., USDOT No. 1712687, based in Davie, Fla.;
- Northern Van Lines, Inc., USDOT No. 1147457, based in Cooper City, Fla.;
- Northeastern Vanlines, Inc., USDOT No. 1212003, based in Pembroke Pines, Fla.;
- United West Moving and Storage, Inc., USDOT No. 1827150, based in Anderson, S.C.; and
- Direct Movers, Inc., USDOT No. 1666092, based in Pikesville, Md.
FMCSA's Moving Fraud Task Force began investigating Allegiant Van Lines, Inc. in response to consumer complaints that the company illegally held customers' possessions hostage. The company failed to respond to federal orders charging it with improperly holding hostage goods. The company has been suspended from operating for at least one year. In addition, it has been issued fines of over $88,000 for safety and commercial violations.
During the course of the investigation into Allegiant, FMCSA discovered the company's owner also operated Northern Van Lines, Inc. and Northeastern Vanlines, Inc. of Florida, and United West Moving and Storage, Inc. of South Carolina. Combined, more than 100 complaints have been filed against the three related companies in the National Consumer Complaint Database. They now face fines of over $31,000 total and have also been suspended from operating for at least one year.
Maryland-based Direct Movers, Inc. was also shut down, and their DOT No. inactivated, for failing to comply with an FMCSA demand for records involving a shipment being held hostage.
"FMCSA investigators are using new tactics to protect people from the predatory companies looking for ways to exploit them," said Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "We encourage anyone planning a move to avoid becoming a victim by learning the red flags of moving fraud and researching any prospective mover's complaint history on our website."
In 2012, FMCSA established a Moving Fraud Task Force to investigate household goods moving companies with numerous complaints.
In July of this year, FMCSA announced that civil penalties of up to $56,000 had been levied against three Chicago-area moving companies as a result of an intensified investigation into Illinois movers.
More than 5,800 household goods moving companies are registered with FMCSA. In 2012, FMCSA received more than 3,100 consumer complaints about household goods movers, up from 2,851 in 2011. Among the most common complaints are shipments being held hostage, loss and damaged goods, delay of shipments, unauthorized movers, and deceptive practices such as unwarranted overcharges.
Consumers can report unsafe and unlawful moving companies by calling FMCSA's nationwide complaint hotline at 1-888-368-7238 (1-888 DOT-SAFT) or by visiting the database at http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov.
Consumers can visit www.protectyourmove.gov to find out more about the "red flags" of moving fraud.
SOURCE Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration