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Illegal movers nabbed in ODOT sting

Law enforcement cracks down on unlicensed, uninsured movers


by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Michael Fevurly, compliance specialist for the Oregon Department of Transportation, confronts illegal movers during a sting operation Tuesday in Lake Oswego.Three unlicensed household moving services were cited for multiple violations of state laws during a “sting” operation conducted in Lake Oswego on Aug. 27.

Over the course of several hours, workers from Northwest Student Movers, Easy Family Movers and Portland’s Family Movers were issued citations — both for failing to register their businesses with the Oregon Department of Transportation and for breaking state safety regulations.

The undercover enforcement operation was a joint effort between the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office and ODOT.

Dave Thompson, public information officer for ODOT, said the exercise was primarily about consumer protection.

“We want you to be safe when you invite people into your house,” Thompson said. “These businesses made a choice to ignore the law. And that puts the consumer at risk.”

Thompson said regulating the moving industry helps control prices and prevent consumer fraud.

As part of the certification process, movers and shippers must conduct background checks on all employees. Moving companies cannot employ workers who have served time for a felony conviction within the last five years.

Licensed movers are also required to maintain cargo insurance (in case of missing or broken items), meet federal safety requirements for their vehicles and post a standardized list of prices and hourly rates, called a tariff.

“This is all for your protection,” Thompson said. “When you go around those protections trying to get (movers) on the cheap, you’re putting yourself at risk.”

Michael Fevurly, ODOT compliance specialist, emphasized that when transactions with illegal moving companies go bad, the customer is often left holding the bag.

According to Fevurly, many uncertified moving services lack a legal storefront — relying on ads on bulletin board websites like Craigslist. Then, if items are lost, damaged or stolen during transit, customers might have little to no legal recourse.

“When you’re an illegal entity, you’re not on the radar,” Fevurly said. “And you can’t serve a phone number with a warrant.”

Fevurly said that while registering with ODOT only costs $300, the added expense of insurance premiums — and reporting income on state and federal tax returns — leaves some company owners reluctant to register. by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE  - Sgt. John Naccarato (facing away) discusses the undercover operation with sheriffs Dep. Robby Nashif (center) and Dep. Bryan Morris.

Northwest Student Movers Matt Gladheim and Alex Brodsky were met by Fevurly, armed deputies from the sheriff’s office and members of the media during Tuesday’s sting.

When the movers arrived at the rental property in the Lake Grove area at about 8:30 a.m., they were cited and given a fresh, unfilled copy of the ODOT application form. Their vehicle — a rented U-Haul — was also inspected.

Both Brodsky, 20, and Gladheim, 29, contended they were students at Portland Community College. They said their boss had never told them that movers needed to be certified — or that their company wasn’t.

“We’re just trying to make money while going to school,” Gladheim said. “I didn’t know I had to pay to work.”

“I’ll get a call from my dad if (this) is on the news,” Brodsky said.

At a nearby parking lot, sheriff’s Dep. Bryan Morris noted several violations associated with the movers’ vehicle and operating status.

For operating without authority, Gladheim and Brodsky were jointly handed a $435 ticket. They also lacked a medical certificate — in essence, approval from a doctor for both operators to lift and drive heavy machinery — and were fined another $160.

Morris also issued the movers two warnings. Their vehicle lacked a fire extinguisher, required by federal law, and a certificate of registration. If he’d cited them, that would have been another $595 in fines.

Humberto Reyes, owner of Easy Family Movers, was another illegal operator caught in the sting.

Reyes said his accountant had promised him his business was legal and that he didn’t know anything was wrong.

“I pay all my (taxes) — state, federal, everything. I even went to Salem to report my business,” Reyes said. “But I don’t know about this (application). If I know, I can pay. No problem.”

To view a list of all certified moving companies in the state, visit oregon.gov/ODOT/MCT/Pages/MOVING.aspx.



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