Expert on Criminology Has Items Stolen by Movers, Is Challenged to a Lie Detector Test

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Imagine spending twenty years studying fraud and white-collar crime. Imagine you’ve taught on the subject at the university level, you’ve written articles and books on fraud, and imagine you’ve even made a documentary on the largest case of municipal fraud in U.S. history. Top your hypothetical off with a Ph.D. in accounting, and you’d be pretty sure you could handle it if someone accused you of lying. Especially if you weren’t.

So now imagine how a woman by the name of Kelly Pope, who actually fit all of these descriptions, felt after she complained to her moving company that her movers stole some of her property, then they accused her of lying. Pope found herself on the defense, accused by the moving company of making a fraudulent claim. Says Pope in a recent Forbes article,

A crime was committed (in my case, movers working for a large moving company ransacked my drawers, found my hidden wedding bands, and stole them, during my move). I discovered the theft right after the movers left my house and immediately reported the crime to the police, offering a minute by minute account of what had happened. Next, I contacted the president of the company via LinkedIn and shared my complaint, then I waited and waited…and waited for a resolution. During that wait time, I never thought that the moving company would turn the tables on me to the point where I now find myself scared to speak about my story because the company has threatened to seek legal action…against me.

Kelly Pope. Forbes.com

Her story plays out like a movie, complete with a lie detector test and the very real chance that her name and good reputation, not to mention her life’s work, could all be forever tarnished if she didn’t clear herself – which, Ms. Pope would find out, can be extremely difficult to do in this age of instant commentary and lies flying all over the place.

So you may be wondering …

Did our heroine pass her polygraph? Did she clear her name? Did she get her property back? And what about those thieving movers? Whatever happened to them?

Well, she didn’t get her stuff back. The law makes thievery difficult to prove without proof. But she did use a polygraph to help clear her own name against the movers.

As for the loss of wedding bands that were selfishly stolen from me, probably never to be returned or replaced by the moving company, I feel sad. But what I feel sadder about still is the way a legal maneuver was used to silence a would-be whistle-blower.

You may be wondering, by the way, about the results from my polygraph test. Was I lying?  Hell No! I passed the polygraph with flying colors. I did not issue a false claim against that thief-of-a-moving company… The truth has set me free.

Not the best situation all around, but a lesson to any crummy moving companies out there thinking about crossing your customers: be careful who you steal from.

The Stuff That’s Illegal to Bring Into Texas

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Relocating to Texas, like relocating anywhere, comes with the responsibility of knowing the laws of the land. Every state differs, and some states are stricter than others. But when it comes to what you can and cannot transport across state lines – and what you can or can’t possess once you’re there – we are sure there is no state quite like Texas.

Here are all the things that are illegal to bring into Texas, broken down by type. Welcome to the wild, mild west.

Fruits and Vegetables

While Texas may have a reputation for oil wells and football teams, the state also boasts a humongous $100 billion agriculture industry. It is no surprise then that they have more than a few rules regarding what fruits and vegetables can’t be brought over state lines.

The good news is the Texas Department of Agriculture spells out all the rules right here in this document. The bad news is this document is 21 pages long and uses a lot of big words. If you’re the type to snack on exotic fruit with hard-to-pronounce names, you may want to read carefully over the TDA’s rules. For the rest of us, here are the basics:

Of particular interest is the citrus fruit family. As the Southwest Farm Press states, “With very few exceptions, no citrus plants, or even pieces of citrus plants are allowed into the state from anywhere.” The National Plant Board gets a bit more technical, explaining (on page seven) that, “any living or non-living rootstock, leaf, root, stem, limb, twig, fruit, seed, seedling or other part of any plant in the botanical family Rutaceae, subfamily Aurantioideae.” As citrus is a huge part of the Texas economy, even one bad plant could potentially ruin entire crops.

In addition to citrus fruits, Texas has plenty of prohibitions in place. If you’re coming from Florida or Puerto Rico, these things are some of the major items prohibited:

  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Bell peppers
  • Blackberries

There are more than 50 kinds of fruits, vegetables, berries and spices that Texas prohibits coming from down south, due to Caribbean Fruit Fly infestation.

If you’re coming from anywhere in the US (except California, Arizona and parts of New Mexico), Texas also prohibits:

  • Hickory trees
  • Pecan trees
  • Walnut trees

As well as “…(any) parts thereof, except extracted nut meats”, thanks to the never-popular pecan weevil.

Finally, these vegetable plants are not restricted but heavily regulated coming from anywhere, due to a whole host of diseases and pests:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Collards
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Eggplants

It’s all right here in this exhaustive “Summary of Plant Protection Regulations from the Texas Department of Agriculture. Give it a read if you have the time and the will. Or just play it simple and leave every last lemon, walnut and berry behind.

Pets

We have some good news for all you Texas-bound pet owners. The Lone Star State merely requires that all dogs and cats be certified as rabies-vaccinated.

The bad news is that something as simple (and responsible) as keeping Rover on a legal leash requires a watch, a map, a thermometer, a tape measure and a weather forecast. According to Texas statute “§ 821.077. Unlawful Restraint of Dog” :

  • (a) An owner may not leave a dog outside and unattended by use of a restraint that unreasonably limits the dog’s movement:
  • (1) between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.;
  • (2) within 500 feet of the premises of a school; or
  • (3) in the case of extreme weather conditions, including conditions in which:
  • (A) the actual or effective outdoor temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit;
  • (B) a heat advisory has been issued by a local or state authority or jurisdiction; or
  • (C) a hurricane, tropical storm, or tornado warning has been issued for the jurisdiction by the National Weather Service.
  • (b) In this section, a restraint unreasonably limits a dog’s movement if the restraint:
  • (1) uses a collar that is pinch-type, prong-type, or choke-type or that is not properly fitted to the dog;
  • (2) is a length shorter than the greater of:
  • (A) five times the length of the dog, as measured from the tip of the dog’s nose to the base of the dog’s tail; or
  • (B) 10 feet;
  • (3) is in an unsafe condition; or
  • (4) causes injury to the dog.

Considering all this, it might just be easier to get a tiger.

We’re not kidding. Reading the Texas laws regarding owning exotic animals – including lions, tigers, bears and gorillas (seriously) – it seems only as difficult to register a “dangerous wild animal” as it does a pickup truck.

(While we’re at it, we’ll mention that it is legal in Texas to own flamethrowers, venomous snakes and, for the truly under-stimulated, military-grade tanks.)

But back to the world most of us inhabit. If you are relocating to Texas, you should know that certain species of fish and other aquatic life are prohibited. Despite their lengthy explanation on the environmental and economical destruction wreaked by the lionfish, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department doesn’t list this non-native critter among their outlawed types of marine life. Here are just a few of the fish that are prohibited:

  • Tilapia
  • Piranhas
  • Freshwater Stingrays
  • Freshwater Eels
  • Temperate Basses
  • Oysters

All resources and information considered, it seems reasonable to believe you’re okay bringing your parakeet with you to your new home in Texas. But we strongly recommend checking with your local authorities as to what laws apply to your pets. As an example, in Waco, all dogs, cats and ferrets must be vaccinated against rabies; all pets must be spayed/neutered and microchipped; dog houses must have at least three walls in addition to a roof and a floor that is not the ground; and no, you cannot give your pet its rabies shot yourself.

Alcohol

The good news here is that Texas puts no limits or taxes on any alcoholic beverages you are transporting into the state, as long as you are in the process of relocating to Texas and the alcohol in your possession is intended for personal consumption only.

The bad news is that the Texas heat will skunk your swill faster than you can say “Lone Star Lager”. So you better hope that your’s isn’t a long distance move in the heat.

Keep in mind, however, that once you are actually settled in the Lone Star State, you’ll be subjected to fines and/or jail time if you fail to declare that case of tequila on your way home from Mexico, or any other alcohol you bought out of state and are transporting back into Texas.

As for figuring out the laws in your particular municipality for purchasing beer, wine or liquor, good luck.

Plants

Texas has no apparent problems with houseplants that are grown indoors in a commercially-prepared potting mix (rather than in soil) and are free of pests and diseases. These may enter Texas without certification.

However, according to the same “Texas Dept. of Agriculture Summary of Plant Protection Regulations” we saw earlier, “houseplants grown or kept outdoors require a phytosanitary certificate from the department of agriculture of the origin state indicating freedom from pests and diseases.”

We’ll be blatantly honest here. There seems no guarantee that your word will be good enough if someone wearing a TDA uniform asks if you’ve ever put your rubber tree plant out on the patio or the front porch, and you say no.

And just in case you were wondering, you can’t bring all that firewood for your backyard chiminea. Texas doesn’t even like Texans moving firewood from one part of the state to another, for fear of spreading potential or active infestations. Check out the Texas info on DontMoveFirewood.org – and consider giving that chiminea a good washing too before trying to carry that across the border into Texas.

Firearms

And what would Texas be without guns? In keeping with their wild, wild west reputation, the state makes it easy for lawful firearms carriers from other states to legally carry in Texas, either through reciprocal or unilateral agreements with those other states. In other words, just like having a driver’s license from another state allows you to legally drive in Texas, having a permit to carry a firearm in another state allows you to legally carry your firearm in Texas.

The analogy is not perfect, of course. Texas has no firearm-carry agreements with Oregon, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Maine, Vermont or New Hampshire. And while you have 90 days upon relocating to Texas to switch your driver’s license over, there is no requirement whatsoever to register your firearm in the State of Texas.

None.

How’s that for wild?

It’s not complete anarchy, of course. “Texas requires any individual in possession of a handgun to inform a law enforcement officer of their permit or license to carry if an officer asks them for identification.” Texas also spells out restrictions and requirements regarding carrying in vehicles, open carry and places where carrying is illegal.

As far as transporting your firearm from your old state to your new home in Texas, your most pressing concern might be following the laws of the various states you may be passing through along your way.

In some ways, Texas seems like an almost lawless land. In others, the laws can seem unduly convoluted. You can have a gun. You can get a tiger. Just be sure to leave the tangerines behind!


Illustrations by Subin Yang

Real Local Crime Blotters: Movers Edition

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Lexington, Massachusetts

Saturday, Feb. 25

3:55 p.m.: A caller from Burlington Street reported a suspicious black van parked in their driveway. When Lexington Police arrived, it was found that the van belonged to the moving company which helped the caller move into their home.

Meanwhile, the movers were on the phone with police to report a suspicious individual lurking in the house they were moving furniture into…

 

lobster

Brockton, Massachusetts

Sunday, February 26th

Officer Amanda O’Shea took a report in the lobby of the Scituate police station from a Scituate fisherman who had just come in from pulling his traps and had a box of lobsters intended for sale at the town pier. The fisherman said he had put the box of lobsters in the rear refrigeration unit of a Mullaney’s truck that was at the town pier.

As he pulled away to moor his boat he saw a moving truck pull up beside the Mullaney’s truck. Footage from Area surveillance cameras showed two occupants of the moving truck getting out and approaching the Mullaney’s truck. One of the men was then seen going to the rear of the moving truck before both occupants got back into their truck and drove away. Goodbye lobsters.

Upshot: Both men ended up turning themselves in, were released on $500 bail and are due back in court in April.

Rumor has it they don’t even like lobster.

fireworks

Des Moines, Washington

One Sunny Sunday, 2016

An employee at a Des Moines storage and moving facility alerted authorities after discovering more than two tons of illegal fireworks in a shipping container earlier this week.

Federal, state and local and local agencies searched the scene and uncovered 131 boxes of consumer fireworks – including artillery shells, cakes fountains and aerials.

These type of fireworks are illegal and require a fireworks import license, the State Fire Marshal’s Office said.

The containers were being moved from Olympia to Honolulu.

131 boxes. More than two tons. That’s more than 30 pounds of stuff that can explode per box. Talk about heavy artillery.

Report: Three Movers Save Woman From Armed Ex-Boyfriend

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[Synopsis: The story of how three movers in an alley in Chicago became heroes of circumstance.]

Ever been called a hero? On the job, that is? You know, customers singing our praises for getting that armoire down the stairs with nary a single scratch in the wood or nick in the wall? Or maybe for hauling a basement full of boxes and clutter out the door in less time than estimated? For just doing our jobs?

Just doing our job.

And that’s what Josh Lara, Cody Grandt and Mike Zaininger of Chicago’s Wisdom Moving Company were doing this past October when a woman came running up to them, begging for a cell phone as if her life depended on it. As it turned out, it did. A nearby perpetrator, reported to be her ex-boyfriend, was threatening her life with a firearm inside of her nearby office. After quickly assessing the situation, the movers hid her inside their moving truck after she approached them looking for help, then they called the authorities.

The Chicago police would later credit these movers for saving that woman’s life.

Check out the story by WGNTV.

 

“I think there’s a hero in all of us,” Josh Lara says. “It just takes a certain situation.”

Yep. You done good, boys.

Burglaries Inside Storage Units Are Becoming Common, but Can Be Avoided

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[Synopsis: In developing business relationships, quality is just as important as quantity.]

In our very first HireAHelper newsletter (Anyone out there remember?) we raised the idea of making friends with the folks at your local self-storage facility to develop a mutually beneficial business relationship. At any time of the year (and particularly during the busy season when so many people are coming and going) having a solid working situation with your industry colleagues can pay huge dividends.

But it also pays to know who you are shaking hands with. In any industry and profession, you are going to run across some bad eggs. The moving industry is certainly no exception. And neither is the self-storage sector.

Recent events in Independence, MO and Santa Cruz, CA remind us of this.

There in Independence, multiple break-ins of storage units left several customers feeling shaken and unsure of the industry.

“I always thought that if you put your things in something like that you are trusting those people to have security and watch over your stuff,” Hall said. “They just don’t.”

The situation repeated itself in Santa Cruz, CA. Dozens of customers had their valuables rummaged through and stolen, and multiple people were found living inside the storage units. That storage unit was eventually inspected by the city Planning Department and declared a public nuisance, but not before plenty of people got burned.

disclockTips such as not storing more than $5,000 in goods, purchasing insurance and using disc locks are offered when people get victimized. But the onus should ultimately fall on us within the industry for referring quality and safe services, as opposed to consistently pushing for maximum quantity. The latter is how we destroy our brand as an industry.

Business is all about relationships. And success in business is all about successful relationships. Successful relationships, in turn, require integrity and clarity from both sides of that handshake. If you hear there have been issues with a storage area, if you are dubious of your local storage units after seeing them, or if you are simply cramming as many customers into one place of business as possible, consider finding more alternatives.

As we continue down the roads of our own success, picking up people along the way, it’s important to remember to choose our friends – and our allies and business associates – wisely.

How to Find The Safest Neighborhoods in Your City

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There’s no doubt that moving is a stressful time, but what happens when you’re ready to move but don’t know which neighborhood to choose? For most people, one of the biggest priorities is finding a place that is, first and foremost, safe. The problem is that while you’re looking at potential properties, there is little you can do to figure out the safety level of any given neighborhood. Real estate agents are not permitted to give either positive or negative comments about a particular neighborhood’s safety due to fair housing laws. This means it’s time to strap on your gumshoes and do a little detective work.

Trulia.com's Austin, TX Crime Map

Trulia.com’s Austin, TX Crime Map

Online Data

Fortunately, the question of neighborhood safety is so common that several websites have sprouted up to answer this precise inquiry (for example, checkout Trulia.com’s Austin crime map pictured above). You’ll be able to find fancy overlaid maps with crime statistics and tons of data, but it often doesn’t tell the whole story. Obviously, you’ll want to avoid areas with high instances of property or physical crime, but how comprehensive is the data you’re looking at? In most cases, the incidents are only those that are reported and a police report has been filed. While this information is useful, nothing beats an actual visit to the neighborhood to see what’s going on.

The Seeds Of Crime

One of the most interesting correlations in neighborhood crime rates is found in houses that are in disrepair. For some reason, criminals prefer areas that have plenty of broken windows, abandoned lots, and houses that are falling apart. The psychological theory is that vandals feel more confident attacking these types of neighborhoods than those that are in a more pristine state. From a positive perspective, this means that areas with what appear to be more modest housing options may actually be safer if they are obviously well-maintained with mowed yards and no litter on the ground. On your walk through the neighborhood, be on the lookout for these signs, especially in the close vicinity of the property you’re thinking about buying or renting.

Talk To People

The general feeling of being a neighbor may not be as common as it was 50 years ago, but the truth is that your potential neighbors will have the best information about how safe the area is. In addition, they will generally not have a vested interest into whether you move to the neighborhood or not, meaning that they will be likely to give honest answers to your questions. Before you sign on the dotted line, be sure to knock on some doors with a nice gift of flowers or chocolates and a list of safety-related questions. Chances are high that you’ll get the exact information you’re looking for.

While nobody can predict how crime can rise and fall in the coming years, it certainly helps to move into a neighborhood that is currently safe. Doing due diligence will take very little time and the rewards for making the right neighborhood are immense. Follow these tips and you’ll stand the best chance of finding a safe place to live in your city.

President Shawn Wood of Student Movers

About the Author
Shawn Wood is the founder and President of Student Movers, a California moving company that helps families and businesses relocate across the Golden State. Shawn is a member of the California Moving & Storage Association, supporter of many charities, and an avid snowboarder. Connect with Shawn on Facebook and Twitter. You can also book a moving labor crew from Student Movers to load or unload your belongings through HireAHelper.com.

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