The only people who like towing companies, it seems, are those who make money off them.
A Detroit-area towing company is accused of doing something that will make the rest of us hate towing companies even more, if the allegations are true.
It all started last year, with multiple investigations into Detroit police officers suspected of taking bribes in exchange for giving business to select tow companies.
Nationwide Recovery, the company at the center of this story, sued the city of Detroit in July of this year, claiming that the city pulled its permit illegally. Nationwide claims it had nothing to do with the bribery scheme and so its permit shouldn’t have been revoked. The city of Detroit said that wasn’t true and went to federal court to explain why.
The city claimed that Nationwide, along with its attorney, set up the theft of vehicles. Those cars and trucks were towed to a lot on the east side of the city. An unnamed police officer from Highland Park, Michigan (an independent suburb that is completely surrounded by Detroit proper) then would fail to fill out paperwork that would alert vehicle owners that their cars had been found. Eventually, owners would track down their cars, but be forced to pay storage fees which had piled up.
Detroit cut ties with all companies that were owned by a Gasper Fiore after he was indicted in May. His indictment was due to Fiore allegedly bribing officials in nearby Macomb County in a completely different scandal, one that involves a waste management company he owns.
However, Fiore isn’t listed as being associated with Nationwide. The city, though, says it can prove he is. Nationwide fired back, saying, essentially “nuh uh.”
The city’s counterclaim against Nationwide’s original suit is based on this: The city found that in its view, the company was recovering vehicles at a “suspiciously alarming rate under highly questionable circumstances.” It also found that over a specific time period, the company towed 217 cars and trucks, which was significantly more than other local tow companies.
The mess goes back a decade. In 2007, a collision-repair shop owner in the Detroit neighborhood of Corktown was criminally charged for being involved in the theft of a car. The owner’s brother offered to snitch on others involved in auto thefts in exchange for leniency for his brother. The city agreed.
The informant and brother of the shop owner, Louay Hussein, bought an interest in Nationwide in 2016. The city says Fiore had been involved with Nationwide since 2010 and the company has under investigation by the city since then.
The city accuses Hussein, his brother, and Nationwide’s attorney, Marc Deldin, of defrauding the city and its residents by stealing cars.
According to the city, a car thief stopped by a police task force dropped a cell phone during his arrest, and text messages on the phone were sent to Louay Hussein. Those texts told Hussein where to find stolen cars.
Police deemed that the messages weren’t sufficient for them to pursue criminal charges, but they continued to monitor Nationwide. The police department claims stolen vehicles were being recovered unusually soon, in some cases before they were even reported stolen.
Detroit’s counter-claim also makes reference to an FBI investigation into Detroit’s towing processes, as well as the internal police department investigation that resulted in six officers being suspended.
Furthermore, the city also claims Nationwide couldn’t provide paperwork for some of the cars on its lot.
I reached out to both Nationwide and the Detroit Mayor’s office – an operator at Nationwide declined to comment or refer me to someone who would, while the mayor’s office has not responded as of this writing.
[Source: The Detroit News]