U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General Kenneth M. Mead and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Acting Administrator Annette M. Sandberg today stressed the importance of the indictments of 16 household goods carriers and 74 individuals as a message of deterrence to those engaging in household goods moving schemes.
Mead and Sandberg made their comments after the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Marcos Daniel Jimenez, announced the charges, which resulted from a two-year investigation by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General and local law enforcement agencies.
“Today’s indictments mark the most significant, concentrated attack by law enforcement against alleged corruption in the household goods moving industry ever made in DOT history,” Mead said. “We couldn’t have gotten to this point without the unified efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s office, the FBI and local law enforcement. Fraud in this industry affects thousands of victims every year in the United States. The unsealing of the indictments today should make it clear that law enforcement efforts are focused on eradicating these types of illegal activities.”
“Today’s activity illustrates the commitment of the Departments of Justice and Transportation to protecting the moving public,” Sandberg said. “In addition, we are increasing our efforts to educate the public about their rights and responsibilities when moving to ensure the public is better prepared to recognize unscrupulous household goods movers.”
USDOT’s Office of the Inspector General investigates household goods carriers alleged to have engaged in egregious and intentional patterns of defrauding consumers. Since 1998, the Office of the Inspector General, in conjunction with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, has opened 16 cases and closed 5 cases involving egregious examples of moving fraud involving household goods.
Not including today’s indictments, these investigations have resulted in charges being brought against 15 moving companies, 19 employers, operators, and other employees of household goods moving companies involving fraud against more than 2,000 consumers. So far, 16 people have pleaded guilty and been ordered to serve a combined 13 years in jail, pay $126,500 in fines and $3,476,501 in restitution to defrauded consumers.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is a DOT safety agency that investigates and takes enforcement action against motor carriers that demonstrate a pattern of violating safety and commercial regulations. Through publications, the FMCSA also educates consumers about their rights and responsibilities when hiring and using household goods movers.
Carriers found to be in violation of household goods regulations are subject to fines of not less than $1,000 per violation for each day the violation continues. Since October 2000, FMCSA has taken enforcement action against 20 household goods carriers and imposed fines totaling $948,000.
While FMCSA is primarily a safety agency, it is charged with oversight of the interstate moving industry. It does not have the authority to settle loss and damage claims or obtain reimbursement for consumers seeking payment for specific charges. In transferring oversight of the household goods moving industry to the DOT from the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1995, Congress encouraged consumers to use neutral arbitration or pursue legal action against the mover to protect their interests.