CBC Investigates

Moving company solicits business while owner faces weapons and bribery charges in St. John's

A St. John's moving company owner on probation for a series of driving-related convictions is now back before the courts facing new charges for bribery and weapons offences — all while his business is soliciting new customers.

Twin City Movers posted an online ad seeking new customers while Dustin Etheridge was in jail

Dustin Etheridge, in this 2015 Facebook photo, is the owner of Twin City Movers in St. John's. (Dustin Etheridge/Facebook)

A St. John's moving company owner on probation for a series of driving-related convictions is now back before the courts facing new charges for bribery and weapons offences —  all while his business is soliciting new customers.

According to an agreed statement of facts from his February convictions, 26-year-old Dustin Etheridge runs his own company, Twin City Courier and Moving, which has been in operation since 2015, and has three employees.

Etheridge is listed as sole director of that company in provincial corporate registries.

It is somewhat concerning that an individual with a driving record and a criminal record such as yours would be starting a business involving being a courier and moving.- Judge Kymil Howe

A website also exists for Twin City Movers Inc., with the same address and phone number.

During that February sentencing hearing, a provincial court judge in Corner Brook commented on Etheridge's role in the business.

"It is somewhat concerning that an individual with a driving record and a criminal record such as yours would be starting a business involving being a courier and moving," Judge Kymil Howe said. 

The Twin City Movers website boasts "unmatched service" by its "amazing staff." (Twin City Movers Inc.)

An ad seeking new clients for the company was posted on Kijiji several times last week — including on Dec. 4, the same day Etheridge was in jail awaiting a bail hearing on the most recent charges against him.

"Cheapest moving service in town and the best we handle your furniture like [it's] our own," the ad reads.

In October, a CBC Investigates producer contacted the company, without identifying himself as a journalist. He asked for, and received, a quote on a move. 

When asked if Twin City does background checks on its employees, the person on the line said yes.

This ad for Twin City Movers was posted on Kijiji on Dec. 4, while owner Dustin Etheridge was in jail awaiting his bail hearing. (Kijiji)

But Etheridge is not the only person linked to the company to have had recent run-ins with the law. 

A man with a lengthy criminal record was arrested this summer, when he fled from police after smashing into two other cars while driving a Twin City van. He acknowledged being under the influence of drugs at the time.

Etheridge did not return multiple requests from CBC Investigates for an interview.

CBC Investigates tried again to contact the company last week, but the phone number was not in service.

It is not clear if Twin City is still in operation.

'I won't be back here again'

In February, Etheridge pleaded guilty to the dangerous operation of a vehicle and breach of probation.

A second count of dangerous driving, as well as charges of resisting or obstructing a police officer and operating a vehicle without insurance, were withdrawn.

According to the agreed statement of facts, a red Dodge Viper passed an RCMP police cruiser doing 120 kilometres an hour, east of Deer Lake on the Trans-Canada Highway in October 2015.

This photo of a red Dodge Viper was posted on Dustin Etheridge's Facebook page in September 2015. (Dustin Etheridge/Facebook)

Etheridge was pulled over. He told the officer that his licence had been suspended, and that the vehicle insurance was in his father's name.

As Etheridge got out of the Viper, the officer noticed a "large bulge" in the front pocket of his hoodie. 

He asked Etheridge to put the contents of his pockets onto the car. But Etheridge, who appeared "nervous and agitated," said he couldn't do that, and that he wanted to speak to a lawyer.

He jumped into the driver's seat. The officer said he was under arrest, but Etheridge drove off — causing the officer to "[jump] back to avoid being hit by the Viper."

The car sped back onto the highway, its tires kicking up rocks.

The officer didn't pursue the Viper, but later spotted the car pulled over on the side of the road.

Etheridge apologized for fleeing, and told police he did it because he was scared.

According to the agreed statement of facts, the "bulge that had been in his sweater was no longer present."

At his sentencing hearing, the judge noted that, between 2013 and 2016, Etheridge racked up 24 traffic tickets — six of which were related to driving while suspended or prohibited.

He was also jailed in April 2015 for failing to attend court and failing to comply with his release conditions.

The judge noted Etheridge had "very little respect" for the law, court orders, and police officers.

He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, served on weekends, and wasn't permitted to drive for one year.

Etheridge expressed remorse.

"I'm very sorry. I won't be back here again," he said.

'He will learn from this'

But that didn't turn out to be the case.

Etheridge was again before a judge in July, after he repeatedly failed to report to his probation officer.

Defence lawyer Stephen Orr said his client was sorry, and that "he will learn from this."

Defence lawyer Stephen Orr represents Twin City Movers owner Dustin Etheridge. (CBC)

"Normally when you don't bother to show up on a probation order, then you get straight jail time," Judge James Walsh said.

But instead, Etheridge was fined almost $400 and given 12 months of probation.

More charges pending

Etheridge has since had other brushes with the law.

According to court documents and police reports, at 6 a.m. on Oct. 20, the RNC responded to a report of property damage in the east end of St. John's.

Police arrested and charged Etheridge for assaulting a woman with a knife, possession of a weapon, damaging property (less than $5,000), and breaches.

He was ordered to check in regularly with the RNC, but missed three appointments.

That matter was before a judge two weeks ago. A date was set for Etheridge to return to court in January.

But just a few days later, he was picked up and held on charges of bribing a police officer, resisting or obstructing an officer, as well as breaches.

He was released on a recognizance to appear next month.

Twin City driver also charged this summer

Another Twin City employee also has a lengthy criminal record, and was convicted for offences he committed while driving a company van.

That's according to the statement of facts read out in provincial court at the driver's sentencing hearing this fall.

On the evening of June 7, a cube van on Allandale Road crashed into two other vehicles at the Long Pond bridge in St. John's.

The van sideswiped a minivan, crossed over into oncoming traffic, and struck an SUV.

The driver fled the scene on foot, and witnesses followed him to Memorial University's student centre, where he was arrested.

Needles seized by police

Paramedics took a clean needle and a small portable scale from the driver's jacket pocket.

Police said he had "droopy eyes, but was co-operative," and he later "admitted to being a heroin addict."

RNC officers seized a used needle from the cube van's dash.

The RNC found that the driver's license was suspended, and that he owed more than $4,700 in traffic fines.

The van he was driving was not insured, and its registration had expired. It was also in "sold to" status to Twin City Courier and Moving.

The driver pleaded guilty to driving while disqualified, failing to stop at the scene of an accident, impaired driving, and driving without insurance.

Multiple prior convictions

At his sentencing hearing in September, the court heard that the driver had multiple prior convictions for impaired driving, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, and driving without insurance.

His criminal record also includes theft from a grocery store in April, breaches of court orders, a history of property offences, as well as fraud, theft, and multiple break and enters.

Defence lawyer Stephen Orr also represented that driver. 

I'm just happy that I never hurt anybody.- Twin City Movers driver

Orr told the court that the driver worked for Twin City Movers before his incarceration.

On the day of the offence, Orr said his client had taken three or four Valium on his lunch break, which was mixed with methadone, and caused him to black out.

The driver told the court: "I'm just happy that I never hurt anybody."

He said he's been using drugs since his late teens, has been battling an addiction, and knows that driving is something he has to stay away from.

The judge sentenced him to 179 days. He was also prohibited from driving for three years, and put on probation for 18 months.

It is not clear whether the driver is still incarcerated, or whether he is still employed by Twin City Movers.

About the Author

Jen White

CBC News

Jen White is a journalist with CBC News in St. John's.

With files from Rob Antle and Ryan Cooke