6/21/2008Illinois Cracks Down on Predatory Towing
FBI sting and a new state law aim to protect consumers from unscrupulous tow truck drivers.
Federal authorities have arrested accused predatory tow truck operators in Chicago, Illinois as a new consumer protection law is set to take effect next month. Motorists involved in an accident often the tow truck that arrives at the accident scene to remove damaged vehicles later insists on outrageous fees, in cash, before they are returned. Police officers even take bribes to ensure only favored companies were allowed near the accident scene.
Earlier this month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents arrested a tow truck operator and a Chicago police officer for conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. The agents had wiretapped the phones of Collision Towing owner, James P. Athans, 39, which also produced evidence implicating Chicago Police Officer Joseph A. Grillo, 45.
According to the FBI, Athans and Grillo staged the theft of a 1996 Volkswagen belonging to an unnamed active duty police officer in February 2007. The unnamed officer reported his car stolen, even though Athans had it towed to a storage lot where it was dismantled for parts. The Chicago police officer was paid $3990 by State Farm Insurance. Grant and Athans now face twenty years imprisonment, if convicted.
"We hope that the charges announced today will reassure the public that those who are sworn to uphold the law will be held to the highest standards," FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Robert D. Grant said in a statement.
A new Truth in Towing state law will also take effect next month mandating a number of consumer protections. It requires, for example, the full, written disclosure of all terms and costs prior to towing. Motorists must be allowed to make payment by credit card, and a towing company cannot ask a car owner to waive the tow truck's liability for damages.
A full copy of the new towing law is available in a 71k PDF file at the source link below.