Saturday, August 16, 2008

Towing Kickback Scheme Exposed In Chicago (This Blog Breaks Down The Numbers) photo

A Chicago police officer has been forced to turn in his badge and gun, and now stands accused of taking kickbacks to direct business to one particular towing company, and it's looking pretty bad for the officer...

...because one of the tow truck drivers was cooperating as a witness and the lame-brain officer actually kept a tally in his ticket book. The arrangement went on for two years, says this article.

According to reporter Alan Schmidt, the officer is accused of "raking in" $600 to $800 a week for steering business (nice pun) to a particular towing company. The article doesn't specify which towing company.

According to my 11-year-old son's calculations, 52 weeks a year times two years is 104 weeks. So 104 weeks times $600 a week (minimum) is $62,400. This is the minimum Officer Michael Ciancio, 56, allegedly raked in. If the estimate was off, and he actually made $800 a week, that would be $83,200. (Again, credit to my son who happens to be a math whiz, but didn't need to be for these calculations)

So the officer apparently raked in between $62,400 and $83,200. Wait, it gets better! Over the past 15 years...I say again, FIFTEEN YEARS!--the tow truck driver had similar arrangements with "other officers" in the same police district, and with a neighboring police district.

So let's do the same kind of math. How many officers are we talking about, here? Well, at a minimum, one more officer in Ciancio's district, and then one more officer in a neighboring district. So if one officer can rake in $600 a week, MINIMUM, that's $31,200. OK, so how much can three officers make every year, at a MINIMUM of $600 per week? The answer--and my son is starting to find this just a bit tedious compared to his video game--is $93,600.

OK, how much if those three officers were raking in $800 per week? Well, that would be $41,600 per officer. Times three officers per year is $124,800. (At this point, my son emits a low whistle and says, "That's a LOT!" The scandal is starting to draw his interest away from his video game, just a bit)

"Is there any more?" he asks, hopefully.

Yes, my son, there is. First of all, though, we can't put Officer Cianco all the way into our calculations, because he was only doing this for TWO YEARS. All we can do is assume there were TWO OTHER OFFICERS whose arrangement with the driver went on for fifteen years. OK, so if each officer made a minimum of $31,200 per year and a maximum of $41,600, then how much could two officers rake in, total, if they were on the take for 15 years?

OK, first my kid has to figure out how many weeks there are in 15 years. (15 x 52) There are 780 weeks in 15 years.

Take 780 and multiply it by the weekly income of $600. That would be $468,000 per officer, for 15 years. So if we double that (because there were two officers on the take for 15 years) then the minimum income for 15 years for those two officers would be $936,000.

OK, but now we need to figure out how much money could have been raked in, if it was actually $800 a week for 15 years. So take 780 and multiply it by the weekly income of $800. That would be $624,000. (My son is doing an excellent job keeping up, now that we've started using the calculator on his computer) Multiply this by two, because there were at least two officers on the take for the whole 15 years. So that would be $1,248,000.

(Yes, we've finally broken the million dollar figure)

OK, now take the minimum and maximum take of Officer Ciancio for two years. As we've established, his minimum take was $600 a week, for two years, so $62,400. His maximum take was $800 a week, so that would be $83,200.

Adding the 2-year Ciancio figures to the maximum and minimum 15-year take of the other two officers produces the following results.

$62,400 (Ciancio minimum 2 year take) plus $936,000 (the other two officers' minimum 15 year take) is $998,400.

(I'm disappointed. I had hoped the minimum number would break a million. But it's so close to a million it can be rounded up quite easily)

$83,200 (Ciancio maximum 2 year take) plus $1,248,000 (the other two officers' maximum 15 year take) produces a number of $1,331,200.

Final conclusion: According to simple math, the alleged towing kickback scheme raked in almost a million bucks, no matter how you slice it. Of course, this is assuming the minimum number of officers. If there were actually half a dozen officers involved--not just the minimum number--the maximum and minimum take will start to get outrageously high rather quickly.

NOW HERE IS THE SAD PART: This isn't anything unique. Towing kickbacks happen all over the nation because of non-consent towing systems that rake in huge amounts of money, but have too few controls or safeguards. It's not just Chicago. Similar flows of "oily cash" are driving abusive and predatory towing practices all over the nation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thought you might be interested in how the National Parks Service is spending it's time and resources at Mt. Baldy, a national treasure and pride of Indiana. Me, my wife and our 3 young kids came to the Indiana Dunes for the weekend from the Indianapolis area. No one talks about this place as an option for a getaway and yet it's just over 2 hours away. We had a beautiful day with weather in the low 80s and blue skys. After taking the 1/2 mile hike around the dunes to the beach, and back, with 3 little kids, we find our car gone from the parking lot. Come to find out, the Parks Department had it towed away. We arrived at 10:30 in the morning and there weren't 10 cars in the parking lot. So, we circle all the way to the front and parked behind a truck with a boat. We had our pick of the lot and that's where we choose to park our car. Come to find out, it's for RVs. The gentleman in the picture below explained that they had to "tow them all away". He gave me the impression that there were 10 or so of us that had our family cars taken from us today. I HAD THE ENTIRE PARKING LOT TO CHOOSE FROM AND I CHOSE THIS SPOT! If this is RV parking, don't you think it could be marked a little clearer? I had to pay $125 to get my car back (where's the regulation here? Who sets these prices? The tow guy said normally they charge $60, but for a police impound, they jack it up to $125. I even asked Chief Ranger Mike Bremer's dispatch what the negotiated price is and they couldn't tell me. So sure, why not double the money on me). I also am facing a $75 parking ticket (as the tow guy said, "they are adding insult to injury"). So, $200 to park at Mt. Baldy today, just because I parked to the left and not the right. Here's the paradox. I see several signs AND a fence in front of Mt. Baldy explaining not to climb here. It even pleas that the Dune is moving and how important it is to stay away from this area. I read the sign and the plea and thought it's a shame to think this national treasure is being depleted. It's unnerving to think that people wouldn't do there part to help protect it. Guess how much the 2 people in the picture below and on the wrong side of the fense had to pay for their ticket? Nothing. Because it wasn't issued. They were told to climb back over the fence and go around the way the signs instruct them to. When pressed, this gentleman explained that it's an issue of priorities. I'm shocked because I'd think the Parks Department's first priority would be to keep people safe and their second priority would be to protect the park. Apparently, it's more important to move a van in a spot WHERE THE SIGNAGE IS HORRIBLE and let the park itself suffer. What a shame. I had to leave my wife and 3 kids (ages 8,5,3) in the parking lot by themselves for an hour to get my car (not too safe) while people (there must have been 20 in 10 minutes) trotted through the hole in the fence and climb this off-limits area. I've paid $125 and am faced with paying another $75 in parking fees. What a shame. Anyway, thanks for listening. Please let me know if there is anyone else you think would listen to my predicament.


Kerry Brenneman