The Department of Transportation Inspector
General is investigating a moving company in Seattle, its owner and employees
in what is alleged to be a longstanding conspiracy to defraud consumers,
according to the complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office in the U.S.
District Court Western District of Washington at Seattle.
The criminal complaint charges
the owners and several employees of Nationwide Moving Systems
of Kirkland and
Woodinville, WA, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud
and extortion. The
company is also known
as Nationwide Moving & Storage, Northstar Moving & Storage and American
Star Moving & Storage.
The complaint accuses the defendants of engaging
in a typical rogue mover operation, where customers are given purposefully low
estimates and then their household goods are held hostage until they pay a
final bill that is two to four times the original estimate. In addition, the
complaint alleges the owners and employees regularly helped themselves to
customers’ belongings and deliberately damaged items if they weren’t paid
The American Moving & Storage
Association, a national trade association representing moving
and storage companies,
released a statement supporting the actions of
the DOT Inspector General.
“We are gratified to see the federal government
taking the necessary steps to protect consumers from these rogue movers,” AMSA
President Joe Harrison said in the statement. “These people bear no relation
to the legitimate moving industry, where honest, hard-working
men and women succeed at meeting the challenge of providing highest
“It also shows convincingly that rogue firms
like this one, that operated without a license throughout its existence, have
not felt constrained by the current federal requirements,” Harrison added.
“However, increased attention and enforcement by the federal government on the
rogue mover problem hopefully will deter these people from operating
without regard for federal regulations and the relocating consumer.”
The Inspector General’s investigation identified
30 customers who said they were ripped off by Nationwide. Customers disputing
the higher fees were told their goods would be unloaded, at the customer’s
expense, and left on the street at the pickup site. Or they would be told their
goods would be placed in storage, at the customer’s expense, until “full”
payment was received.
Attempts to reach the company for comment were
unsuccessful; three telephone numbers listed for the company were disconnected.
--by René Tankersley, feature
René Tankersley can be reached