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San Francisco tow truck operators accused of scamming drivers, making millions


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They allegedly received over $100,000 in welfare benefits



Two tow truck company operators in San Francisco have been accused of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of welfare benefits even though their companies generated $2 million in income each year. The substantial income, legal documents show, allegedly allowed one of them to buy multiple properties, several boats and a $289,000 Lamborghini.


According to a recent order of suspension issued by San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu, Abigail Fuentes and Jose Badillo collectively received $161,000 in CalFresh, CalWORKs, and Medi-Cal benefits from 2018 to 2023. Despite operating three towing companies — Auto Towing, Jose’s Towing and Speciality Towing and Recovery, Inc. — both claimed they needed financial assistance, even though evidence suggests they were flush with cash.

In 2018 and 2021, Badillo bought a residence in Bayview for $1.2 million and another home in Excelsior for $815,000, the suspension order shows. Fuentes also owned a Cadillac Escalade valued at over $100,000, it continues, while Badillo owned several cars and four boats.  


According to a Feb. 6 news release from the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, Fuentes and Badillo illegally profited from the city’s “vulnerable” Spanish- and Cantonese-speaking residents. The department accused them of unlawfully towing parked cars, limiting the times drivers could retrieve them, and pressuring them to pay in cash, ultimately helping them generate millions of dollars.    


In October 2023, Badillo and Fuentes were charged with multiple felonies as a result of the alleged welfare scheme, the release continued. In addition to allegedly lying about their income, Fuentes was accused of briefly working as a Human Services Agency Senior Eligibility Worker and approving Badillo’s application without disclosing her personal relationship to him, it said. Arrest warrants have since been issued for both Badillo and Fuentes, and their companies have been suspended from operating. Auto Towing representatives and Badillo did not immediately respond to SFGATE’s request for comment at the time of publication. 


“Auto Towing intentionally misled and scammed people out of hundreds of dollars by illegally towing cars and making them hard to retrieve,” city attorney Chiu said in the release. “… Fuentes and Badillo have demonstrated a clear pattern of predatory behavior designed to enrich themselves at the expense of the most vulnerable among us,” he continued. “Our city has no interest in contracting with exploitative businesses engaged in illegal conduct.”



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