Saturday, August 16, 2008

Towing Operator Accused Of "Double Dipping" While Under Contract With Ames, Iowa photo

I guess I don't expect too much towing scandal in the State of Iowa. In fact, I've never before blogged about any incidents in Iowa. But with this article Micheal Louis, 51, the owner of Mike Louis Auto Body Repair and Towing, just put Iowa on the Towing Utopia map...

According to reporter Luke Jennett, Louis was arrested for double-billing while under contract with the City of Ames. "Icing on the cake" charges include fraudulent insurance submission, ongoing criminal conduct, second-degree theft and third-degree fraudulent practices. He is being held on $60,000 bail.

Police have concluded Louis was using two sets of books: one for the city and one for the insurance companies. He would charge insurance companies whopping fees but the paperwork he showed the City of Ames had the agreed upon rate. Because their own department administered this contract, Ames police were forced to shift the investigation to the Iowa State University Department of Public Safety.

Louis says (through his lawyer) it's all a big smear campaign and he has done nothing wrong. Supposedly this is a political vendetta set off by Louis suing the city, alleging breach of contract.

Oh, and he wants his bail reduced.

I'm kind of surprised he hasn't posted bail. In a purely speculative way, I chalk it up to two possibilities:

1.) He's an incredible cheapskate who wants to hold out for a better deal, despite the fact he has plenty of money socked away from sticking it to the public.

2.) Vice. Only some kind of expensive personal weakness could account for taking in so much money from dubious towing practices, but not having enough money on hand to--good heavens!--secure one's own freedom.

Then again, how rough could incarceration be in Ames, Iowa?

"Um, so what are you in for?"

"They say I'm a pig rustler."

My own search of the jail roster reveals no Michael Louis. I suspect he already made bail.


CL said...

The description of your blog hits home with me, big time. I experiencing it as we speak. Cited for operating without registration and inability to provide proof of security against liability. Car impounded on the spot. No priors. No accidents. My kid and a ton of work supplies were with me, stranded 15 miles from home in a less than desirable neighborhood to be walking with so many valuables. And the thing is, they can't even prove me guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the charges that I was cited for. Needless to say, I'm fighting it. When I plead with them to get my car back so that I can work, eat and adequately defend myself, I'm led in a circle because the court, CA and cops all say that they have nothing to do with it.

So why did I post this ramble on this particular blog post? I'm just down the road from where the story mentioned in the blog post takes place, in that other college town.

Anonymous said...

Iowa City, I presume.
"... they can't even prove me guilty beyond reasonable doubt?" If you didn't have proof of insurance, or valid registration on your vehicle... what is there to PROVE? If you didn't have it... you didn't have it. If you DID, you can contest the ticket when you can prove that you did, in fact, have both at the time they ticketed you. It is that easy. You must have insurance and valid registration, its the law. They have the right to tow your car from there.
While it totally sucks that you had your kid with you, you did break the law. Insure your shit, get your registration taken care of and you have no problem.

Johnny T. Utopia said...

There is a huge leap of logic between "you must have" and "they have the right."

No. They don't have the right. The 4th Amendment of the Constitution gives citizens the right to be safe and secure in their persons and possessions. Seizing a vehicle--the means to life and livelihood--for failure to adhere to some easily-rectified law about insurance is overkill. Since when do we live in a country where government has "rights" instead of citizens?

The vehicle could be left by the side of the road for a reasonable period of time. It could be escorted somewhere. Another driver could be called to take the vehicle home. The vehicle could be towed, but VOLUNTARILY and to the person's home instead of an impound lot.

There are lots of alternatives to these overkill tow-'em-all procedures. And as this blog shows, the towing industry is full of abuses and corruption.

Ames-tow truck operator said...

What you know of this is very little. Louis only had the contract for a couple of months. He couldn't of pocketed that much money. Just because there is one company in Ames scaming people does not mean that all the other companies are like that. You give the towing companies of Ames a bad name and that in fact is not true of all of them, that chose a career and are making a living doing that career.
You have also talked of making money of towing your car parked in the wrong place. Why complain? How hard is it to read a sign and not park their? All of us that live in this town have been getting by, by not parking in those locations. Do you pay the taxes on that parking lot? So i can see why people put up signs for those of you who are not allowed to be in those lots designed and built for other users.

Johnny T. Utopia said...

Well, how much money DID he pocket? Inquiring minds want to know.

Furthermore, towing cars away just because they are in a (stomp stomp) PARKING LOT is much too expensive and too extreme most of the time. It is increasingly unaccceptable in our interconnected, wired world. Drivers should get a notification through cell phone and/or email of an impending tow, so they have an opportunity to "move it or lose it."

(Yes, they probably should still pay a small fine)

Abusive towing is lucrative for the towing companies and that is how greed, abusive and predatory practices start to happen.

You've got your side, I've got mine. I doubt very much if either of us will persuade the other. But this much is true: Good ol' Louis just put the state of Iowa on the Towing Utopia map.

Not just Ames. ALL OF IOWA, BABY!

a5150hit said...

I just read John Hoff's editorial in the Ames Daily Tribune and I am glad he added his voice. Unfortunately, Mike Louis of Mike Louis's Body, Paint,Towing, Salvage and Shyster got off easy, seven felonies reduced down to one misdemeanor. Louis has been screwing people for years, bullying people on Interstate 35. His ex-wife once told me he damaged his own vehicles and collected insurance money until his insurance company would drop him. I wouldn't put it past him at all.
A previous blogger reminded us that the towing companies in Ames aren't all like Mike Louis and that is correct, Louis seems to be the only crock operator. Ames is a big college town and it's easy for Louis to take advantage of unsuspecting students who are far from home. My question is how do we regulate people like Louis and how much more can this guy get away with. I really hope the police watch this guy.

Anonymous said...

Has any new developments around Mike Louis arose recently? I'm taking this guy to court soon - he's a theif!