An undercover sting operation from the State Division of Consumer Affairs has resulted in $2,500 penalties for dozens of unlicensed moving companies.

Director of NJ Division of Consumer Affairs Eric Kanefsky
Director of NJ Division of Consumer Affairs Eric Kanefsky (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)

"Operation Mother's Attic" targeted companies that solicited moves without the proper state license. Over a four-day period in November, 26 entities were cited.

The unlicensed movers booked appointments with investigators who posed as consumers hoping to make a routine move. When the drivers showed up at a self-storage facility in Ledgewood, they were met by several officials and eventually understood they were part of something bigger.

A handful of drivers, though, legitimately seemed to have no idea they were employed by an unlicensed mover.

"I was shocked, like, they got the trucks out here and different officers questioning me," William Paul of Newark told Townsquare Media. "I just thought it was just like a moving job - help out and make a couple of dollars."

Ultimately, the owners of the so-called companies were the ones issued the penalties, which can be cut in half if a license is applied for within 30 days. Consumer Affairs Director Eric Kanefsky noted some companies have already submitted applications.

"Our goal here is to get companies in compliance, to get them licensed in the state of New Jersey," Kanefsky said. "Our licensing requirements in this state are really there for a reason."

Last year alone, the division received 89 formal consumer complaints about moving companies. Nearly 300 moving companies are currently licensed to perform intrastate moves in New Jersey.

More details from the sting operation:

  • The Federal Motor Carrier Administration is filing additional $25,000 charges against two of the movers.
  • Two moving company employees were arrested on site due to outstanding warrants.
  • State Police condemned one company's truck for dangerous safety violations, including worn tires and leaking oil.
  • Eight movers had listings on Craigslist.

"Moving is one of those activities that is undertaken by a consumer where they're particularly vulnerable," Kanefsky added. "In many cases, they're turning over their worldly possessions to strangers, and they're relying on the honesty and efficacy of those individuals."

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