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Peralta warns buyers to watch what they ship

Holiday gift−givers sending packages overseas may be tempted to use discount shippers operating out of storefronts in Queens, but trusting them could be a mistake, state Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D−Jackson Heights) said last Thursday.

Peralta urged cash−strapped residents to ask shippers to show them a federal license before they pay to send an item to countries like the Dominican Republic. Several people have called his office to complain their packages were lost and there is no way to recover the money, Peralta said.

“They end up losing more than they thought they would pay,” Peralta said.

Corona resident Antonio Bourdier said he used Bonao Direct Shipping Corp. at 98−02 37th Ave. in Corona to send relatives in the Dominican Republic a package worth $1,000. Eight months later, the package still has not been delivered and Bonao is out of business.

“I kept calling and calling, every week,” he said. “It just kept going on and on.”

Corona resident Olga Almonte also sent a package using Bonao, whose staff told her the package would arrive in the Dominican Republic in two or three weeks.

“I bumped into the owner on the street and I asked him about my package,” she said through an interpreter. “He told me it would take another two or three weeks. It had already been a month.”

Jim Mingione, a representative for the Federal Maritime Commission, the agency that issues shipping licenses, said such incidents are common. He identified three other shipping companies in the neighborhood under investigation for similar practices: Awilda Shipping at 41−02 108th St., Cibaeno Shipping Express at 93−16 37th Ave. and Embarque RD at 108−06 37th Ave.

“Literally hundreds of unlicensed companies spring up every year,” he said, noting most open during the holiday season and close within a few months. “I get 200 complaints in January, February, March of packages never reaching their destination because the company has closed down.”

One of the issues is the cost of licensing, which requires the licenses to post a security bond of up to $75,000, Mingione said.

Peralta also said these unlicensed shippers often use their clients’ packages to ship illegal goods overseas to be sold on the black market. Noting that the federal monitoring of outgoing shipments is underfunded, he called on President−elect Barack Obama to make the security of city ports a priority.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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