LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. -- Illegal moving companies have been targeting Portland Metro area consumers and now the state is fighting back.
On Tuesday, the Oregon Department of Transportation set up a sting operation and used a “decoy home" to try and get illegal movers to show up by responding to a variety of online advertisements.
State officials said the sting was all about protecting consumers.
“Don't hire people like this. You think you're saving money, you're not. You're taking such a risk,” said ODOT Spokesperson David Thompson.
He said the moving industry has been heavily-regulated for a reason. Movers must be certified with the state, carry liability and property damage insurance and their vehicles must meet federal safety standards as well.
Moving companies must also conduct criminal background searches on potential employees and they’re prohibited from hiring anyone convicted of a felony in the past five years -- all standards designed to protect the consumer.
“There's trust that these things will be handled with care, there's trust that they won't be stolen in the process,” said ODOT Compliance Specialist Michael Fevurly.
He added that it’s up to the moving company’s owners and drivers to maintain certifications.
During Tuesday’s sting, two Portland Community College students who said they work for Northwest Student Movers were detained when they showed up to the decoy house for a moving job. They said they had no idea they were violating any laws.
“If I couldn’t find a job, to tell you the truth, I'd go out and try to do something like this. It just seems so easy," mover Matt Gladheim said. "On Craigslist, post something, someone calls you, you go move them, so you can make a little money.”
Not knowing the laws seemed to be the theme for many of the illegal movers who were detained during the sting.
Humberto Reyes, of Easy Family Movers, said he thought he had the right certification. "Yeah. Right, now I don't have it, but I...I...I you guys can check on the Internet,” he said.
Criminal background checks seemed to be the most important violation of the day.
When Portland Family Movers came to the decoy home, one of their movers turned over his ID to Sheriff’s deputies and they found he was on parole for delivery of a controlled substance.
That controlled substance turned out to be heroin. A fact ODOT’s Fevurly said immediately puts a family at risk when hiring an illegal mover.
“They're required to make sure that no employee has a felony conviction in the last five years,” he said.
The violations handed out Tuesday range from hundreds of dollars to thousands. ODOT said their goal was to get these illegal movers the certifications they needed so they could become compliant and legal.