Saturday, March 29, 2008

Paint it Red--Shocking Towing Abuse In California

Multi-Agency Law Enforcement Operation Targeting Tow Truck Companies

The operators of a Coachella-based business accused of illegally towing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of vehicles, had their trucks seized Friday but were not arrested, although possible charges were pending, authorities said.

(Why weren't they arrested? One criminal appears to have more rights than a thousand motorists)

The owners of Desert Automotive Specialists, located at 84969 Avenue 48, are suspected of violating laws that limit how far a vehicle can be towed, charging motorists exorbitant fees to get their vehicles out of impoundment -- even painting curbs red to justify towing a person's car, according to the Riverside County District Attorney's office.

Charges that may be filed in the case include auto theft, kidnapping, false imprisonment, unlawful towing and vandalism, said Tom Maycomber, supervisor of the consumer fraud unit in the D.A.'s office.

(Kidnapping? It sounds like they towed a car that was occupied!)

He noted that most of the victims were primarily Spanish-speaking and elderly people who were unlikely to contact police out of fear or embarrassment.

(It's usually the persons of modest income who suffer from abusive non-consent towing practices)

"(The tow company) started off small, and over time became emboldened and got greedy," said Maycomber.

He said he expected charges to be filed within three weeks.

The tow company owners and any employees who cooperated with their scheme could face up to three years in prison, he said.

Maycomber appeared with Palm Springs Police Chief David Dominguez at the Palm Springs Police Training Center to announce that search warrants were executed this morning at two Indio residences, as well as two tow yards owned by Desert Automotive in Coachella and Desert Hot Springs.

Dominguez said tow trucks were seized, along with business records and other assets associated with the outfit.

Most of the illegal towing occurred over a three-year period in apartment complexes, trailer parks and in busy areas of Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Indio and Coachella, Dominguez said.

Dominguez said anyone concerned they may have had their car illegally towed by the company can go to any Coachella Valley police station and fill out a form that will be forwarded to the District Attorney's Office.

(Why should individuals have to physically go to a police station? Put the form online and make it convenient, I say)

All this info comes from KESQ, and here is a link to their original story.

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