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Three Medford moving companies cited during sting

ODOT, police and the BBB advise those moving to do their research before hiring a mover

Three moving companies in Medford face fines after local law enforcement and state commerce officials determined that the movers were not properly licensed.

Advanced Moving Solutions, Almighty Movers and Rogue Valley Professional Movers, all of Medford, were cited for operating without proper authority after Oregon Department of Transportation officials determined that the movers were not certified to commercially transport property during a Wednesday sting operation conducted by several local and federal law enforcement agencies.

ODOT’s Commerce and Compliance Division invited moving companies to an address near Phoenix Wednesday as part of the enforcement operation, according to an ODOT press release.

Medford police, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and ODOT cited a driver with Advanced Moving Solutions with a misdemeanor charge of driving while suspended or revoked and operating without proper authority. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also cited the driver for operating a commercial vehicle without a medical certificate and for failing to carry a required fire extinguisher.

Almighty Movers was cited for operating without proper authority, for operating without an active U.S. Department of Transportation number and for not carrying the required fire extinguisher. The company shares a mailing address and registered agent with Advanced Moving Solutions, according to the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office business registry.

A driver with Rogue Valley Professional Movers was cited on a misdemenaor charge of driving while suspended or revoked and for violating his federal probation on a weapons offense.

Rogue Valley Professional Movers was cited for operating without proper authority, operating without a medical certificate, as well as for federal motor carrier violations that included operating without an active U.S. Department of Transportation number, not carrying a fire extinguisher and for failing to carry required emergency road triangles or road flares.

None of the businesses were accredited by the Better Business Bureau, but only Almighty Movers had a single negative review listed.

The one-star review from June 2 claimed that the business owner and a woman with him “proceeded to bicker at one another, slowly escalating over the course of 30 minutes into a screaming match” before driving off in the truck midway through the job.

In a response posted on the BBB page, the company said it refunded the customer’s money, called the customer’s claims “dramatically incorrect” and called the customer a drug addict.

All professional movers of household items who work within the state must be certified by ODOT. To gain Oregon certification, the ODOT Commerce and Compliance Division requires movers to pass criminal background checks and charge ODOT-approved rates. To check if a mover is certified, see oregon.gov/odot/mct/pages/householdgoodsmoving.aspx.

All interstate professional movers must be certified under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The regulations can protect consumers from a new wave of crimes known as moving fraud, in which unlicensed, often fly-by-night fraudsters pose as moving companies.

Some fraudsters steal customers’ belongings, or hold the victims’ property hostage while demanding more money than what was previously agreed upon.

In August, Grants Pass police warned about moving fraud after the department recovered roughly $500,000 worth of household goods belonging primarily to people in Southern Oregon.

Details in the case have not yet been released. When asked this week whether Grants Pass police ever made any arrests, Grants Pass police Lt. Jeff Hattersley said federal agencies had taken over the investigation.

Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said the department has taken two separate cases of moving fraud in the past month, and described several others earlier this year. The cases typically involve a contractor who subcontracts the move to other businesses.

In June, a couple who moved from Medford to Minnesota contacted Medford police after reporting that between $200,000 and $300,000 of their belongings were never delivered a month after moving.

Police found the items in a Medford storage unit, but the company would not release the belongings to the victim, citing contract disputes.

“What a nightmare,” Budreau said after reading the case file. “I cannot imagine.”

In another case reported in June, a victim told police they paid a company $21,000 to move items in a three bedroom home from Medford to San Antonio.

“The movers arrived in a U-Haul truck and a Penske truck,” Budreau said.

On July 9, three roommates told police that they’d paid a company $5,000 to move them to Texas, but the company stopped communicating with her after demanding another $2,000.

The victim estimated their belongings were worth about $50,000.

“She could not get consistent answers about where her belongings were, but the truck was in Oregon,” Budreau said.

Budreau said that some of these Medford cases were closed as civil or contractual disputes.

Further, because correspondence in these cases is often through electronic means, it can be difficult for police to pin the crime on a suspect, Budreau said, “and we gotta tie it to a person at some point.”

"I bet a lot of people are getting their attorney involved instead of getting the police involved,“ Budreau said.

U.S. District Court records show that at least one such couple, Fred and Linda Marti, are seeking damages in the six figures from a moving company and broker for their ordeal moving from Central Point to Desert Hot Springs, California, late last year.

In October 2020, the Martis were connected with a broker identified as U.S. Pro Moving and Logistics of West Palm Beach, Florida, through an online referral service, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court with the help of lawyer Thad Guyer of Medford.

U.S. Pro quoted the Martis $1,938 for the move. Between the broker and subcontracted movers, D United Logistics Moving & Storage of Woodland Hills, California, costs gradually ratcheted to $5,178.

Calling it an “act of extortion,” the couple complied, according to the lawsuit

When their stuff arrived in California Dec. 19, the Martis say, the movers has “lost” multiple pieces of living room furniture and damaged thousands of dollars worth of antiques, cookware and other fragile items.

Further, their fireproof Sentry combination safe had been pried open, taped shut, and an heirloom, Swiss-made watch valued at $15,000 was gone, according to the lawsuit.

The Martis are suing for a combined $202,000 in their lawsuit filed March 29 and amended Nov. 1. They want a $5,178 refund, damages valued at $17,553 and triple those damages under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act from the two companies. They’re further seeking $22,731 from U.S. Pro for negligent hiring, $50,000 in emotional distress damages, $15,000 for the watch and $100,000 in punitive damages.

U.S. Pro and D United never responded to the March 29 lawsuit, and are in default, U.S. District Court records show.

The two companies are each rated “F” by the Better Business Bureau.

The BBB shows that U.S. Pro has 352 complaints over the last three years, including 318 complaints closed in the last 12 months. D United has 34 complaints closed over the last three years, including 22 complaints in the last 12 months.

The BBB recommends that those moving watch out for “red flags” such as movers who demand cash or large deposits before the move, company websites lacking info about a mover’s address, registration or insurance, and movers who claim all items are covered by their insurance.

Those looking to hire a legitimate moving company can check for movers registered with the FMCSA by calling 202-366-9805 or searching the FMCSA database at protectyourmove.gov.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.