Despite $2 million in fines, officials can't crack who's behind illegal "cheap mover" posters
(Photo by amNY)
A man of mystery sure has the city stumped.
One shadowy figure is behind most of the fliers for “cheap movers” around the city — and no one can stop him from illegally blanketing light poles because no one knows who he is.
“It’s just mind-blowing,” said Councilwoman Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan), who has goaded authorities to solve the mystery. “I give them an A for effort, but C minus for results.”
Dodging authorities for years, the “mystery mover” has gotten away $2 million in fines in what Brewer suspects is a “highly organized criminal conspiracy.”
Vadim Gilman (if that’s his real name), of Brooklyn, is the one to blame for many, if not all, of the fliers, according to the state Department of Transportation. The ads promote “professional and reliable” moving for as low as $17 per man.
But at least two of the moving companies advertised by the signs are unlicensed, meaning customers won’t be covered for damages or get a guaranteed price, DOT spokesman Adam Levine said. Hanging up signs on public property is also illegal, and the signs have aggravated residents and created mounds of garbage.
“It seems like one of these problems that just can’t be solved,” said George McDonald, founder of the Doe Fund, a nonprofit group that removes bags of the fliers every week.
Gilman has eluded authorities by listing numbers connected to pre-paid cell phones, which can’t be traced, Levine said. His motor vehicle records have a fake Brooklyn address, and name searches through the U.S. Post Office haven’t been successful, he said.
Investigators don’t know how Gilman is paid for his services or how he is linked to the moving companies. “We can’t even find out if there is such a person,” Levine said.
Since 2006, the city Department of Sanitation has issued 6,862 violations against Gilman for putting up posters on public property, spokeswoman Kathy Dawkins said. The fines are in default and total more than $1.9 million. The department can only issue violations and can’t take additional steps to bust repeat offenders, Dawkins said.
Gilman also owes $6,000 in state fines for promoting an unlicensed moving company and using a false address. He failed to show up to court hearings despite subpoenas by state administrative judges, Levine said. Earlier this year, the state conducted an uncover sting against one of the companies listed on the fliers, but the movers who showed claimed to be temporary workers who didn’t know who owned the company, Levine said.
“We’re going to continue to do stings … but we’ve hit a wall at this point,” Levine said.
Representatives for four companies listed on the fliers all said they were licensed movers. Ivan, who said he represented “Ivan’s Moving Company,” claimed to not know Gilman and asserted they were allowed to put up signs on poles.
“The only thing that gets customers is fliers,” Ivan said. According to the DOT, the company is not licensed.
Brewer, meanwhile, has asked the state Attorney General to get on the case.
“There’s a real big missing piece here,” Brewer said.