U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Marcos Daniel
Jimenez, announced March 5 indictments against 16 household goods
carriers and 74 individuals that 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.
indictments mark the most significant, concentrated attack by law
enforcement against alleged corruption in the household goods moving
industry ever made in DOT history," DOT Inspector General Kenneth
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
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."
activity illustrates the commitment of the Departments of Justice
and Transportation to protecting the moving public," Annette
Sandberg, acting administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
found to be in violation 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.
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.
would increase fines
that reason, Rep. Tom Petri, R-WI, chairman of the House Highways,
Transit and Pipeline Subcommittee, introduced legislation March
4 to allow individuals or states to take action under state consumer
protection laws against illegitimate interstate household movers.
(See related story in today's news.)
bill increases fines for violations. The fine for "hostage
goods" would increase to a minimum of $10,000, and the DOT
secretary may suspend carrier's operating authority for up to 6
months. There would also be criminal penalties of fines and imprisonment
for not more than 2 years.
a statement, Petri said hostage goods occur "where a mover
low-balls an estimate, loads the consumer's goods onto his truck,
drives off and then refuses to deliver the goods until paid an amount
in cash that can be up to four or five times the amount of the original
civil penalty of not less than $25,000 would apply for operating
without a DOT registration under the Petri bill; a civil penalty
of not less than $10,000 would be levied if a broker made an estimate
before entering into an agreement with a carrier.