The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, under fire for lax oversight of the household goods industry, yesterday announced enforcement actions against two moving companies.

A June 1998 investigation has led to three employees of a Florida moving company pleading guilty to criminal charges. David Frank, Melanie Murphy and Caroline McGowan pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Daniel T. K. Hurley to conspiracy and tariff violations in the transportation of household goods across state lines.
The defendants, employees of All American Van Lines, Pembroke Park, Fla., provided local and interstate shipping service to the public. As a result of the investigation that led to these charges, All American Van Lines discontinued business. The defendants face sentencing of up to two years in prison and may be required to pay restitution to shippers.
In August 1999, All American Van Lines owner and president, Yaron Tishby, pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, hiring illegal aliens, and violating federal transportation laws.
Under Tishby's direction, employees of the company intentionally offered artificially low estimates to customers, failed to disclose charges for packing and other moving-related services, and were discouraged from providing customers with written documentation.
After loading the customer's goods, Tishby's employees would demand full payment in cash of the overinflated bill. People who refused to pay had their belongings placed in storage by the moving company, where they were often stolen or damaged. Customers were not informed of a regulation allowing them to pay 110% of the original estimate and get their belongings back. Their requests for refunds were routinely denied.
In addition, FMCSA announced that Cormier Movers of North Hampton, N.H., was fined $21,000. The company was cited for improper handling of loss and damage claims, for failing to provide the required consumer information ("Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move") and an accurate summary of its dispute settlement process, and for failing to weigh interstate household good shipments in the required form and manner.
In April, the General Accounting Office issued a report indicating that the FMCSA isn't doing a good enough job of regulating interstate moving companies. "The Department of Transportation has provided limited oversight of and has taken little enforcement action in consumer protection issues because this responsibility is a relatively low priority compared with promoting motor carrier safety," said the report.
Earlier this year, the FMCSA added household goods complaints to the safety complaints handled on its hotline at 1-888-368-7238 (1-888-DOT-SAFT).