Editor’s note: The following was written and posted to the International Society of Weekly News Editors group in an effort to expose a scam that is becoming more and more prevalent. It is being published with permission. Nevada News Group (and Winnemucca Publishing) is a member of ISWNE. 

By Mimi Larsen

It occurred to me that the quickest way to get this alert across the nation (and Canada) would be to contact all of you. I’m curious if you’ve seen this happen in your communities. South Dakota’s Attorney General says this is a huge problem in our state, due to a high rate of immigration.

Apparently, this scam is expanding exponentially across the U.S and Canada. A couple just moved to our small town (in South Dakota) from New Mexico. They found a broker for household goods movers online. The price was very competitive. No one came in-person to see what needed to be moved. The customer was to pay 1/3 ahead, 1/3 when all was packed up, and 1/3 upon safe delivery.

However, the day of the move, the movers said the goods took up much more space than anticipated, and required almost double the money was before they would leave – an extra $5,000. This is typical of the scam. Also typical is that the moving trucks are either unmarked or are (Penske, etc.) rental trucks.

Two days after the movers were gone, the customer received notice that their check had bounced, and they needed to give a credit card number (they didn’t, and their bank confirmed the check had, in fact, been cashed (by AMM Movers) cleared. After emailing this evidence, the moving company “disappeared” communications-wise. The items transported included four generations of precious-to-them heritage items.

The furniture becomes the source of extortion; pay more or you don’t get your goods back. Worst of all, the furniture often never arrives at its destination, which is what happened in this case. It was picked up on April 23 in N.M. and there’s little hope of getting their household items back.

They are devastated, furious, and willing to do whatever it takes to get these people stopped. 

They are in contact with at least two others (found via Facebook) who have suffered the same fate, and are equally as determined to see this ends in justice. They don’t want anyone else to have to go through this.

A big mystery is what the scammers do with all the goods. Someone said goods left in storage for more than 90 days can be confiscated and sold.

The broker(s) and moving companies are shell companies. The combination of their low-ball estimate, coupled with many artificial positive reviews online, is what reels unsuspecting people in. 

The companies last until enough customers complain to the BBB or the appropriate federal agencies (including the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration and the Office of Inspector General) to unearth the scam. Then a company folds and morphs into a new company registered with the DOT, etc.

The local couple is so frustrated because so many different federal agencies have some jurisdiction, but all seem disconnected, with no cross-over cooperation.

 Their congressmen have promised to apply pressure. But months have already passed, and no one seems to be able to do anything.

However, here is an example where some of the scammers were indicted and half were arrested. https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdoh/pr/twelve-charged-moving-company-scams

This is also covered by the Office of Inspector General, Dept. of Transportation, which gives red flags and tips to find reputable moving company:

https://www.oig.dot.gov/investigations/household-goods-moving-fraud There are good tips here.

Companies owned by Shadi Qarmout – based in New Jersey (who also has an office in Florida)

• Broker  - Cross State Vanlines DOT# 3275540

Moving companies

• AMM Trucking DOT# 3463106

• Packrite Movers, LLC

• Pack Rite Movers LLC

• DOT suspended

• Easy Moving LLC – Let’s Move America DOT# 3218307

• United States Movers – filed LLC 4/18/2021

Priceline Logistics (DOT#3317445) is another fraudulent broker – owned by Michael J. Clark, who owns at least two other brokerage LLCs:

• US Pro Moving and Logistics DOT#3372590 610 Clematis Street #811; West Palm Beach, FL 33401 Registered agent: Gabriella Klyotskin

• Continental Moving and Storage DOT#3207244