Manhattan DA: Illegal towing racket busted

The Manhattan district attorney's office and the NYPD say they have taken down an illegal car towing ring. The mob controlled the ring, according to DA Cyrus Vance Jr.

"If you were involved in a collision between June 2015 and December 2017 and received assistance from a tow company, chances are, you were an unwitting customer of an illegal enterprise that dominated New York City's towing industry until our takedown today," Vance said. "The defendants worked in concert to maintain a violent monopoly on the city's towing business, in the kind of industrywide racket that harkens back to an earlier era."

Vance said that a two-year investigation revealed that pervasive corruption dominated the towing industry in New York City. He said that 17 people and 10 companies are now charged in the mob-run scheme. He said that suspects listened to police radios and raced to be the first on the scene to tow a car or truck and that things got violent if another company showed up.

At a news conference, Vance showed a photo of one suspect carrying a bat. He said tow truck drivers were encouraged to slam a rival's truck as a warning or a retaliation.

And the indictment alleges that the suspects would damage the cars they towed and submitted false insurance claims. Vance said that they also charged for repairs they never made.

But the big money was in broken-down tractor-trailers. Vance said that pulling out a tractor-trailer stuck under a bridge, unloaded cargo, and making repairs could bring in $40,000 to $50,000 per tow job.

The city's Department of Investigation said the city needs to strengthen its licensing system and background checks for towing companies.