Thursday, January 29, 2009
A "spotter account" is a towing contract between the towing company and the parking facility, to which the contract states the towing company will hold the parking facility harmless from any action because a vehicle was towed.
This is the purest form of violating the Texas Towing Law, Occupation Code 2308.402 and with the criminal aspect, "engaging in organized criminal activity" since more the three people, the spotter, the wrecker driver, the parking facility owner/agent, and the towing company representative who signed the contract.
This ongoing criminal conspiracy involving towing companies and parking facilities against the public is soon to come to an abrupt halt, after the Federal Grand Jury returns the sealed indictments.
On February 10th, at 10;00am in the 7th Floor Public Meeting Room of the E.O. Thompson State Office Building, located at 920 Colorado in Austin, the Towing and Storage Advisory Board will have it's meeting, at which I plan to attend, with several members of law enforcement curious how certain board members will respond to questions concerning conflict of interest.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Towing Companies, Wrecker Drivers and Vehicle Storage Facility Employees Rob Vehicle Owners of Cash and Stolen Personal Property
The Texas Legislature needs to wake up, because TDLR is issuing without hesitation Occupation Licenses to career criminal, murderers, serial rapist on parole, and registered sex offenders. This needs to stop because it's placing the public in grave danger.
The last thing we need is to watch on a TV news story about a 17 female being raped and left for dead on the side of road, by wrecker driver sent to pick them up.
The Milstead Automotive Ltd issue is going strong, a complaint through TCEQ was filed with the EPA for ground water pollution.
I sent a letter today to Mr Susan Combs, State Comptroller regarding the outstanding tax money Milstead Automotive has yet to pay in full after being audited.
Heard this morning, that three senators and 4 house members are going to file several bills regarding the horrifying towing issues across the state. One, I know is being filed is increase the penalty for violating Occupation Code 2308.405 to Class B Misdemeanor punishable by: (1) a fine not to exceed $2,000; (2) confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days or not less than 90 days; or (3) both such fine and confinement, (4) pay restitution in the total amount paid for retrieving vehicle from the storage facility by the victim.
Talked to two San Antonio area attorneys who were interested in representing the Milstead victims in class action lawsuit against Milstead Automotive Ltd and Flying J for Deceptive Trade Practices.
Another issue that concerns me, is the wrecker drivers who are being licensed by TDLR are not being trained in the very laws they must know. If the towing companies are going to train their drivers about the Towing Law, this would be a critical mistake.
What I do know, is that TLDR's Enforcement Agents are ticketing tow truck, vehicle storage facilities and employees for violating the rules.
Friday, January 23, 2009
I had the opportunity to talk with Flying J Corporate office in Utah, regarding the major fraud at one of their locations, they are aware of the incident, and have suspended all towing unless blocking a driveway entering from the street. I told them it would be in their best interest to tell Milstead Towing to come remove their non-compliant red and white towing signs. I offered, and they accepted, to assist them bringing all their Texas locations in compliance with State Law and purchasing the required signage.
Also, I had the opportunity to talk with two members of the Texas Towing and Storage Advisory Board for the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulations, that Amy Milstead is Vice Presiding Officer. Both members, one that is the Asst Chief Police, agreed that Amy Milstead should be removed from the board, if TDLR investigators determine her company, Milstead Automotive Ltd, blatantly violated the Occupation Code 2308.251.
Since this past Tuesday, 7 of the 11 illegal tow victims, who empowered themselves after visiting Texas Towing Compliance, where the incident happened in Austin, have given written statements to the Austin Police Department Wrecker Enforcement Unit.
Unfortunately, 5 wrecker drivers, so far, with an APD Wrecker Driver License, were issued a citation with multiple offenses. Each violation of the City of Austin Wrecker Ordinance or the Texas Towing Law cost $1064.00 plus court cost.
On the towing scam issues, Albert's Towing and Pronto Wrecker was suspended from the Austin Police Department Incident Management Program and Collision Rotation List for 6 months, all because of a greedy owner's business practices. This company, like Milstead and Best charged a vehicle operator two towing fees when only one tow truck is used to tow it to the storage facility. Not only did towing company owner (Thomas Mora) do it once, but several times, not to mention towing tractor trailers with no authorization from a Walmart Store Manager in South Austin.
These towing company owners and executives are responsible for their driver's and employee's criminal conduct. Inadequate trained wrecker drivers are more likely to violate the towing law, but for a seasoned driver or manager, to knowingly tow a vehicle in violation of the Towing Law, is totally unacceptable and should be prosecuted.
It's really sad that just because the law enforcement agency in a towing company's town doesn't file criminal charges for violating the Towing Law, they believe in their warped minds they can steal someone's vehicle, hold it in storage until their ransom is paid.
Law Enforcement agencies are slowly learning about these career criminal wrecker drivers working for a wrecker service that is a criminal enterprise in their community.
You can never give up trying to file an offense report for an illegal tow, if a police officer, or any rank below Police Chief or Sheriff tells you it's a civil matter, go higher up the food chain and demand they allow you to file criminal charges, Occupation Code 2308.405.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I just can't understand why towing companies, of all people, would allow their name and phone number to be on a statutory required towing sign, that fails to meet the minimum requirements of the Texas Towing Law, Occupation Code 2308.301.
I personally have never met Amy Milstead-Ellzey, Vice President of Milstead Automotive Ltd, and the comments I have written in reference this individual, is because of her position on the Texas Towing and Storage Advisory Board, who advises the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations, about rules and regulations pertaining to their towing business.
I believe, like the Austin Police Department Wrecker Enforcement Unit detectives, that a person on any type of state advisory board or commission should be held to the highest of standards, which includes obeying the Law.
The actions of Milstead Towing, based on documentation, photographs, video, State Law and from the many victims, are outright criminal in nature, especially towing vehicles without the owner or operator's consent, from a parking facility not in compliance with State Law.
When I say criminal, it based on Occupation Code 2308.405 and when multiple offenses are occurring from the same parking facility, as in this case, the Flying J, grounds for Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity exist.
Again, had this incident happened in Austin, Texas, those drivers would have been arrested and charged with Felony Theft, according to the APD Wrecker Enforcement Detectives.
The continued resetting of the court date by Milstead is not going to change the facts that this parking facility located at 15919 North Freeway, Houston TX, was not in compliance with the Texas Towing Law, nor did Milstead have probable cause to remove those 23 tractor trailers.
I personally have filed complaints with the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulations against Milstead Automotive (Milstead Towing) for numerous violations of the Vehicle Storage Facility Rules.
In my opinion, after this ruling, which the evidence clearly proves that Best Transport committed several felony criminal offenses regarding this towing incident and should be arrested.
James Thompson who was represented Best Transport perjured himself when testified that his towing company towed from the tractor trailer in question, when in fact, it was Jackson Motors who towed it, since Best lacked the equipment to complete the task.
This case is no different than the incident at the Flying J in Houston that involved 23 tractor trailers. Failure to obey the Texas Towing Law has consequences, both civil and criminal.
Well, there is difference in this case than the Flying J incident, we know who towed the tractor trailers from the Flying J, just the fact that the Vice President of Milstead Automotive, which includes Milstead Towing, is on the Texas Towing and Storage Advisory Board, not to mention the Texas Towing and Storage Association, to allow her employees to flagrantly violate the very State Law which both organizations should know by now.
Bexar County JP 3 Case No. 30-H-09-00004-01
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Most of the towing company owners I know are honest individuals, male or female, who built their respective businesses with integrity, although, none of them ever thought it was necessary to deceive a customer, regardless the situation, when it involved the towing fee(s).
The incident in Bexar and Harris Counties where two different towing companies, both charging an unauthorized towing fee, while one of these companies, "tampered with a governmental record" by marking up the original receipt for towing to coincide with their nonconsent tow fee schedule submitted to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations.
As shown above in the two pictures, you can see that the tractor (truck) and the trailer were altogether being towed with one heavy duty wrecker. This is how tractor trailers drive on the highways, as one unit, but, some towing company owners feel the rush to charge a towing fee for the trailer, when the trailer was never hooked up or attached to a wrecker, during the time that tractor trailer (one unit) was transported to the storage facility.
As in both incidents, neither parking facility, complied with the Occupations Code 2308.252.
Had a sign as shown below been posted at the Flying J by Milstead Towing, the towing of all 23 of those tractor trailers would still be illegal because the towing sign is illegal itself for failing to bears the words "Unauthorized Vehicles Will Be Towed at Owner's or Operator's Expense", as required in Occupation Code 2308.301(b)(5).
All I can say, is that anyone who has been towed from any parking facility with a "Milstead Towing" sign posted as shown above, should seek an attorney and pursue action against the parking facility, since the statute of limitation is two years.
Between the illegal towing sign, the unauthorized charging of a second towing fee, and the various violations with the paperwork given to the consumer, this should be more than enough to prove that Amy Milstead- Ellzey is not qualified to advise the very state agency that regulates her business. These errors in judgment is ample reason to remove her from the Towing and Storage Advisory Board for the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulations.
Had either of these incidents happened in Austin, Texas, these individuals that participated in this criminal conduct would have been arrested for auto theft, by the Austin Police Department Wrecker Enforcement Unit.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Unfortunately, for this applicant, he was denied, because the Austin Police Department through a city ordinance, keeps these types of career criminals from coming in contact with citizens in a tow truck.
It's sad knowing these career criminals can be issued a state license to continue their criminal conduct, using the threat of a tow truck hooked up to a vehicle or just outright steal a vehicle.
How some in the towing industry can sleep at night, knowing they employ career criminals aka murderers, child molesters, burglars, car thieves and serial rapists who prey on the public is totally unacceptable. These towing companies, are giving a black eye to the other towing companies who are obeying the law and providing a needed service to the public and parking facilities.
Now, there is another member of the Towing and Storage Advisory Board for TDLR, that is involved in shady business practices, as breaking into vehicles, driving them to their storage facility, then charging two towing fees to the consumer. They know who they are and they know their latest act was videotaped.
It would only make sense, to have individuals on any type of advisory board, who can say their company obeys the State Law without failing a polygraph.
A warning to parents of college student returning for the spring semester at a college in Texas. Brace yourself for your son or daughter calling for $200+ because their (your) vehicle was towed. With a slowing economy and many loosing their jobs, being burned by a wrecker driver could be the last straw for some people's financial woes.
Parents who can afford to send their children to higher learning universities, should have an attorney to recoup the towing and storage fees, from parking facilities, that frequently violate State Law, in the form of financial benefits from the towing company.
Example: You pay $300.00 to get your vehicle released, the parking facility could be liable to you for $1200.00 ($300 plus three times the total fee you paid)
Friday, January 16, 2009
This latest criminal illegal towing victim, is a private investigator.
Best Transport has a bad reputation with the Schertz Police Department, like many towing companies and vehicle storage facilities are to law enforcement agencies in their community.
Best, like Milstead, charged unauthorized fees, by way of charging a tow fee for the trailer, when the tractor and trailer were towed as one unit. TDLR Senior Investigator Russ Taulli has already said this practice, is illegal.
Earlier, I was in a conversation with a law enforcement member of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office in reference to the incident with Milstead, specifically, the conduct of Milstead's employees and the Deputy that was called, when this latest victim, John Eakins arrived to pickup his wrongfully towed tractor trailer.
The Lieutenant agreed, that for Amy Milstead, not to have known about the 23 tractor trailers towed from the Flying J, didn't whole water himself either.
From what I have learned about Milstead, they are large company, that has operated in Montgomery County for many years, and the incident at the Flying J was out of character for them, according to the law enforcement agencies we have been in contact with.
Regardless, several criminal offenses have occurred and those wrecker drivers who towed those vehicles without "probable cause" will be held responsible.
Just because a parking facility gives authorization to tow, doesn't mean the wrecker driver can knowingly violate the very law they supposedly trained for to be issued a TDLR Occupation License.
I saw firsthand what the criminal actions of employees do to a company's reputation.
If either these towing companies have any integrity, they would own up to their responsibility and refund those illegal towing victims their money. But, as for as Amy Milstead, her days on the TDLR Advisory Board are numbered!
Thursday, January 15, 2009
After speaking to several elected members of the Texas Legislature, the Lt Governor, the Attorney General's Office and Bill Kuntz, Executive Director of TDLR, everyone agrees that if her company is found guilty for violating State Law, she needs to go.
Last night, when John Eakins arrived at their storage facility, the conduct of Milstead's employees toward him was complete arrogance, not to mention, violating State Law, when refusing to "have access to the current nonconsent towing fees schedule on file with the department, as prescribed in §85.1003(c), for the specific name of the company that towed the vehicle to the VSF".
Milstead's wrecker operators that towed those trucks from the Flying J best have some savings, because it is going to get tough, when they learn their TDLR wrecker operator license suspended and fined for towing vehicles without any towing signs posted. It's amazes me how a wrecker driver is overtaken by greed instead of integrity, knowing what they were doing was illegal.
Just the fact that this company that Amy Milstead-Ellzey is Vice President of, without probable cause, towed and stored 20+ vehicles, then turned around and demanded "ransom" before being released, is a primary reason why she should be removed.
Towing companies, especially, those you have been in business for over 25 years, who have developed relationships with law enforcement in their areas, are subject to arrest for violating the Texas Towing Law, since any violation, is a criminal offense. Just remember, when there are multiple wrecker operators towing from a parking facility not in compliance with Towing Law, those wrecker operators are subject to being arrested for Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity, a felony offense.
Texans deserve better and expect any member of a state advisory board, commission or license holder to obey the Law, something this company, has a problem doing, case in point, the Flying J incident and their conduct with a vehicle owner at their storage facility.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
This incident to which involves 23 tractor trailers that were basically towed from the Flying J Truck Stop parking lot without any of the required notification as required by the Texas Occupations Code 2308.255(a).
Yesterday, an investigator with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations (TDLR), told John Eakins, the owner of a tractor trailer, that was towed twice from the same parking lot, that towing without any red and white towing signs posted was illegal.
Another scam issue Milstead has pulled, and the investigator agreed, as well as Bill Kuntz, Executive Director of TDLR, that Milstead, by charging two towing fees when the tractor and trailer was towed together as one unit, that would be against the regulations of very agency that the towing company's Vice President is the Presiding Office of a TDLR Advisory Board.
In my opinion and several Texas Senators, this woman, Amy Milstead-Ellzey should be removed from her position with TDLR, because of this illegal act committing, not once, but 23 times, causing undue financial distress to vehicle operators.
This incident with Milstead is just one of many that occur all over the state of Texas everyday that hurt the pocketbook of vehicle owners and operators that will be used as an example during testimony in this Legislative session.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
The Texas Legislature begins Tuesday, January 13th at Noon and I believe we will see many changes in the current Texas Towing Act, that will make the first major impact into this continuing criminal activity by wrecker operators and parking facility owners.
Due to the large number of illegal towing victims, a DTPA should be filed by the victims against The Richdale Group and Arrow Towing for their deceptive trade practices.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
I told the victim he should file a motion to recuse the Judge because of possible campaign contributions by the owners of the towing company.
The estimated value of each tractor trailer is $125,000+, not counting the value of trailer load or the time lost due to now being able to arrive at their destination.
The towing company responsible for this blatant disregard to Texas State Law, Occupation Code 2308.251 is Milstead Automotive Ltd located at 2907 W Hawthorne, Spring, Texas. The wrecker operators who towed these tractor trailers should have their TDLR license revoked for towing without signs posted and arrested for auto theft!
It's a sad day for Texans, the Vice President of this towing company, is also a member of the TDLR Towing and Storage Advisory Board. In my opinion, this person should be removed from a State Advisory Board, because of this outrageous criminal towing event.
Just the shear number of potential victims from out of state, who haven't a clue, their rigs were towed illegally and subject to getting all their money back they paid to retrieve the tractor trailers is unnerving.
Again and again, towing companies and parking facilities are committing criminal acts against vehicle owner or operators across the State of Texas, who know they can get away with it, because local law enforcement lacks training in the criminal statutes of the Texas Towing Law.
I spoke with the Harris County Sheriff Auto Theft Unit yesterday afternoon, regarding this major fraud, had a difficult time trying to get the person I was speaking with to believe that any violation of towing law is a criminal offense. At least 4 law enforcement agencies I assist through my website, all agree after viewing the photographs sent by one victim, that all those trucks were stolen.
Each owner or operator of a truck that was towed from this Flying J should file an online complaint with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and file a theft report with the Harris County Sheriff's Department (713-221-6000).
This is a prime example of a parking facility and a towing company engaging in shady activity. One truck is bad enough, but 21 tractor trailers at $1500 a pop, being taken from a parking lot without the requirement signage being posted.
Houston Senator John Whitmire's office has been briefed on this incident and agrees a harsher punishment is needed to deal with criminal illegal towing.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Since the towing industry is preempted by Federal Law for having to comply with civil statutes of the state, the only recourse is to increase the penalty for violating any part of the Texas Towing Law. Currently, towing companies are taking advantage of consumers in parts of Texas, because law enforcement is not going to dedicate staffing for a Class C Misdemeanor.
Therefore, if we are to expect any changes in attitude among the known problem towing companies in the state, the penalty for violating the Texas Towing Law needs me a Class B Misdemeanor. If it is shown on the trial of a Class B misdemeanor that the defendant has been before convicted of a Class A or Class B misdemeanor or any degree of felony, on conviction he shall be punished by: (1) a fine not to exceed $2,000; (2) confinement in jail for any term of not more than 180 days or less than 90 days; or (3) both such fine and confinement.
These increased penalties would be a needed tool to address the continued predatory towing practices that are occurring daily in cities across the state of Texas. The Legislature is going to have to makes several changes in the Towing Law, if we are to expect anything positive to change.
The parking facility is the responsible party for bringing their parking areas into compliance with the Texas Towing Law, at their expense. As we have it now, towing companies bribe property managers with perks such as free signage, free parking lot striping, free towing of office staff vehicles, and paid vacation to casinos. Of course, as it is today, due to Federal Preemption and a Class C Misdemeanor, towing companies are towing vehicles by the hundreds illegally because they know that the law enforcement agency is not going to do anything, much less allows a citizen to file an offense report for an illegal tow, to be investigated by a detective.
Since the wrecker drivers are now supposed to be licensed by the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation, if the current written test given to all applicants, does not include a question, such as: “can I tow vehicle without the vehicle owner’s consent for a permit violation with no red and white towing sign posted”? The answer should be no, and the wrecker driver has the responsibility upon entering a parking facility, that the red and white towing sign, is legal, and posted prior to towing the vehicle.
This licensing of Registered Sex Offenders and Murderers by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, for Occupation Licenses, must be stopped. A 17 year old female consumer calls for a tow truck and the driver of the tow truck who arrives is a Serial Rapist, but the 17 year old is not aware that the guy is a Registered Sex Offender. Is the State of Texas willing to risk bodily injury or even rape of a female consumer by licensing these convicts?
I recall that an Austin towing company employed a convicted murderer released on parole. This individual (Al Norman) blew up after vehicle owner’s wife started calling Norman a whole lot vulgar word, Norman approached the woman and struck her with a baseball bat, then turn on her husband still in a wheelchair and punched him 3 to 4 times before driving way their vehicle. After a couple of years in the courts, a judgment was rendered in the amount of $80,000, that towing company paid.
The argument that towing signs get knocked now, so do highway signs, the bottom line is of the sign is constructed with the right material and anchored in the ground, they will not be knocked down. Again, this is the responsibility of the parking facility, not the towing company.
The issue about where the tow hearing is to be heard by a Judge, as of now, the hearing is held in the precinct that the storage facility is located in. One of the reasons it changed in the last session of the Legislature was because I was ill much of the session, unable to attend the meetings. Now, this session being January 15th, I plan to lobby several members both in the house and senate, because these issues about illegal towing are a nonpartisan, I am sure that every member of the Legislature has heard about tragic event regarding towing.
In the original writing of “Rights to Stored Vehicle Owner” written by myself in 1995, specially called for the Tow Hearing to be heard in the precinct where the parking facility is located. The reason for this was to give residents, who are also voters, the right to have their Tow Hearing heard by a Justice of Peace near where they live.
As it now, in the Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth, El Paso, Robstown, McAllen and even here in Austin, towing companies are towing vehicle to another city or different Justice of the Peace jurisdiction. It’s already been proven that several judges that hear towing case are recipients of big campaign contributors from the towing companies.
This mentality of it’s a civil matter needs to change!
If probable cause does not exist to take a $40,000 vehicle, a licensed wrecker driver, should be arrested, if he/she tows the vehicle, bottom line!
Until this industry obeys the Law, these problems we are seeing today will only get worse!