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Pa. Atty General sues to shut down 3 Philly tow-truck companies


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Pa. Attorney General sues to shut down three Philly tow-truck companies he says used pit bulls and threats to ‘extort’ customers

 

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro on Friday filed a lawsuit seeking to shut down three Philadelphia towing companies that he said repeatedly towed cars that were not illegally parked and demanded that their owners pay cash to get them back.

 

In one case, an owner was charged more than state law allows, while other owners reported that when they went to retrieve their cars, a pit bull was used to intimidate them and make them pay, according to the suit filed in Common Pleas Court by the attorney general’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

 

“You can’t just drive off with someone’s car and hold it hostage because you don’t like where they parked it,” Shapiro said in a statement. “Using the authority of a towing service to extort money from Philadelphians is wrong and illegal, and we’re holding these companies accountable.”

 

Named as defendants are Miguel Caban, 47; Miguel Caban Jr., 26; and their companies: Siani’s Towing & Recovery, Aubry’s Towing, and Angelina’s Towing & Recovery. Each is based at the same address, 3209 Germantown Ave. in North Philadelphia.

 

A representative of the companies provided a phone number to reach the Cabans, but neither responded to a text message seeking comment about the lawsuit.

 

The lawsuit alleges that the businesses wrongfully towed cars when they were not illegally parked in some instances, or where signs regulating parking were not clearly and conspicuously displayed.

 

It also alleges that the owners used tactics “to threaten, intimidate and coerce consumers” so they would not refuse to pay when their vehicles had been illegally towed. Intimidation tactics allegedly included “having pit bulls in the owners’ office when consumers came to pick up their cars.”

 

Citing the accounts of seven unnamed motorists, the lawsuit also alleges that in certain instances, the businesses demanded cash to release vehicles they had impounded, a violation of city towing laws.

 

Among the victim stories included in the lawsuit was that of a consumer from Philadelphia who said in January 2019, Siani’s towed her car from her apartment complex despite the proper parking permit being on the window. Three men, two big dogs, and word that the credit card machine was broken greeted the consumer when she went to retrieve her car.

 

“Consumer felt intimidated,” the lawsuit stated, “so she just paid what they demanded.” That was $205.

 

An Upper Darby woman whose car was towed by Angelina’s from Allegheny Avenue in Philadelphia in September 2019 complained that her receipt stated that her car was towed from another location, and that when she went to pay $265 to get the vehicle, an employee told her “she only had a few seconds to get out her registration and insurance or he would get the pit bull out.”

 

The lawsuit asks the court to order the defendants to make full restitution to all consumers who suffered losses; and to pay civil penalties of $1,000 for each violation of the Consumer Protection Law, which will increase to $3,000 for each violation involving victims age 60 or older.

 

In addition, the lawsuit seeks an order “permanently enjoining the defendants, in any capacity, from doing business in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania involving towing or storage of motor vehicles, and ordering defendants to forfeit their right to engage in such trade and commerce within the commonwealth.”

 

The case is not the first Shapiro has brought over towing practices in Philadelphia. In March 2018, the attorney general announced that another towing company had agreed to pay $13,700 in fines and restitution after an investigation found that it had illegally towed 28 cars in the city.

 

Shapiro said the George Smith towing company, owned by Anthony D’Angelo, illegally towed the cars from various locations in the city, and each of the 28 owners had to pay $205 to get the car back.

 

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All I can say is Wow.... Just the fact that these clowns have 3 different "names" to run their business is a red flag to me of their shadiness.. Because of these types of dishonest business men is why our industry has such a bad rap. If it is found that these men are guilty of these crimes Then they deserve everything that comes their way. Also, Being a Pit Bull advocate and owner myself, the use of the dogs to intimidate and threaten your already vulnerable customers is beyond low. On top of losing their business Their dogs should be taken from them as well. These are some disgraceful people..

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PROFESSIONAL TOWING & RECOVERY IS NOT JUST A JOB.. IT IS A LIFESTYLE

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Myself, this is obviously shady. My issue is the $205 and $265 is not out of line or price gouging. The report doesn't provide any supporting evidence the tows were not legal, so I have to question that as well. While it appears to be unacceptable, I need to see more complaints to verify this is a serious problem. I suppose that is because I have actually seen price gouging and drivers taking vehicles improperly because they were not making enough money on their patrol towing. Personal property missing out of those vehicles when paid for a few hours later. These issues didn't come up, so I need to heard more on this one.

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I agree the $200-$265 price tag for the tows seems to be legit. Possibly their thought process is although we are performing illegal tows, if we charge the regulated rate it will give their victims the feeling they are following the law maybe?

 

Basically, hiding the things your not supposed to be doing under the things your allowed to do. Price gouging is a sure fire way to get the appropriate regulatory body to start digging into what you have been doing.

 

Our regulated ppi rates in the city here were just raised  this past January to $200 - $225 ( dollies or flat bed required gets the $225 ) from $100 flat charge that it had been for the past 27 years. Yes, you read that right. We were handcuffed to a $100 tow charge for any and all ppi tows for the city for the past 27 years.

 

Anyway, I am coming off topic.What bothers me is the complaints of unauthorized tows like the woman they mentioned legally parked with a permit or falsifying documentation as to where you towed the vehicle from. Then the threats and intimidation against the victims is obviously not cool. As far as the cash only payments, if it is within your regulations that you must accept various forms of payment then that is a no-no too. Here, payment type is NOT regulated and because it is not I as well as all the other companies on the rotation only accept cash payments for tow aways ( ppi ) I have bold printed signs posted at my yard and I also explain our policy to the customer when they call to inquire about retrieving their vehicles so it is no surprise to them. 

 

We tried out accepting cc for ppi's a couple years back and what some of these college kids around here would do is do a charge-back on the card after we would run the card. then it would turn into a battle with their card provider to get paid.

I also look at the other side of the coin as far as people filing bogus complaints against towers simply because their car was towed. I have had people file complaints against me in the past but luckily because I document everything, take pre and post tow pictures and even record the release transaction if I feel like it is going to be a problem I have never had any bogus claims stick. Being that this particular series of complaints has reached as high up as the state attorney general makes me think that there is some meat on their complaints. 

PROFESSIONAL TOWING & RECOVERY IS NOT JUST A JOB.. IT IS A LIFESTYLE

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More than half of those who have had their vehicle towed claim it was an illegal tow. Yes, there are companies who either know their drivers are towing legally parked vehicles or the drivers are doing this to make commission. Regardless there needs to be proof on both sides and this article provides none. I am down with legally conducting private property impounds and we don't hear about the price gouging and illegal tows as much these days. That is mainly due to fewer companies conducting these types of impound tows. Regulations resulting from price gouging have made it unappealing to many companies, leaving property owners with few options in some localities. I have my own opinions on the proper way to conduct these types of tows which I have voiced in the past. I'll go over those again in a proper post.

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I look foward to your future post regarding these ppi tows Tow Zone. Although there is not as much ppi work here lately, I feel it will skyrocket once the colleges open up here again. There are some issues with what and how some are handled in this area that I would like to run by you and the other members here for advice and thoughts. 

PROFESSIONAL TOWING & RECOVERY IS NOT JUST A JOB.. IT IS A LIFESTYLE

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Not doing alot a PPI's lately but we do are fair share since we don't go after them hard. Also, we'll never do patrol towing and we even told one apartment/condo community we were not being there nightly guard patrol. Hire a real guard and they can call us for a legal tow.

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1 hour ago, yoBdaBenO said:

Not doing alot a PPI's lately but we do are fair share since we don't go after them hard. Also, we'll never do patrol towing and we even told one apartment/condo community we were not being there nightly guard patrol. Hire a real guard and they can call us for a legal tow.

Yup, there is no "patrol towing" done on my part. That is one of those things i would like to discuss on a dedicated post. Predatory towing is considered Illegal in my county, But there is a wide grey area that other companies in town exploit. Although I do have a few businesses and apartment complexes that solely use me for their ppi towing. I tell them it is their job to control your lots, call L.E. and have it ticketed then call me and i will come get it. I want no part in determining if a vehicle is in violation. I will tow it after the property owner/management determines it doesnt belong there.

PROFESSIONAL TOWING & RECOVERY IS NOT JUST A JOB.. IT IS A LIFESTYLE

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