Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has announced charges against Hooked Inc. and owner Joseph Moreno for corrupt organization, deceptive or fraudulent business practices, four counts of insurance fraud, four counts of fheft by deception and two counts of conspiracy for illegal towing practices.
“Hooked Inc., [owners] Dwight Williams and Joseph Moreno took advantage of dozens of vulnerable drivers who, in moments of confusion, were forced to open their wallets so they could line the defendant’s pockets,” said Krasner in a press release issued by his office. “I hope today’s announcement sends a clear message to area towing operations to follow the law, because these scams have no place in our city.”
In conjunction with the Philadelphia Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO) began investigating high tow bill complaint calls, ranging from $500 to $2,000, that were reported to the office by the insurance companies doing business with Hooked Inc. and other towing companies in the city.
Most towing companies in Philadelphia have agreed to a rotational towing program, so each company has an equal opportunity to tow available cars. The program is also designed to prevent wreck chasing and price gouging.
Once at an accident scene, responding officers typically notify the next tow truck on the list via police radio. Then, once at the scene, the towers are required to fill out a tow slip in its entirety, have the customer sign the slip and clearly list their charges. Solicitation by any towing company is prohibited.
The release outlines four examples that detail Hooked Inc.’s, Williams’ and Moreno’s scheme to deceive multiple victims, circumvent the city’s rotational towing program and commit insurance fraud.
Victim one was involved in a car accident and was temporarily blinded from his vehicle’s airbags inflating. While at the accident scene, he was approached by someone who wanted him to sign a tow form.
When he woke in the hospital, not having called 911 or a tow truck, he told officers that he was never given a price, did not sign the tow form and confirmed that the signature on the form was not his. His car was towed to Hooked, Inc., where his insurance company was billed $1,975. The form only said “bill to insurance” on it;
Victim two was in an auto accident and met with a tow driver from Hooked, Inc., who said he could tow his truck for $250. The entire trip was supposed to be only a few blocks to the repair facility he chose, but the driver took the vehicle to Hooked, Inc., which was several miles away.
He was charged $1,680, which included $450 for the tow, $400 for storage, $15 per mile, $175 in administrative fees, $225 in labor and a $150 clean-up fee. No clean-up was performed at the site;
Victim three was in an accident in the Roxborough section of the city and did not call for a tow. While in the ambulance, a tow operator approached her and said that she had to sign the tow slip to remove the car from the road.
Despite seeing no charges listed on the tow slip, and feeling pressured, her husband signed the form because the tower said that insurance would pay for the towing charges. Hooked, Inc. billed Allstate Insurance $1,221.25 for one day. It charged $300 for the tow, $11.25 per mile, $80 in administration fees, $350 in labor, $175 for a winch, $45 per day for storage and a 22.5% tax. Detectives saw that the tow was logged as a rotational tow, but it was later discovered not to be.
Victim four was operating a rental car that drove into a ravine in North Philadelphia. The police and AAA arrived but could not remove her car. When a tow truck arrived with two operators, they told her they worked for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Inc. and would tow the car to the Warminster location where victim four rented the car.
Her daughter was not allowed to remove victim four’s belongings from the vehicle. One of the operators was overheard saying, “get her to sign the paper,” and she was pressured to sign the form. She was only given a business card with a phone number on it to claim her car and belongings.
When she went to Enterprise the next day, she learned that the car never arrived and she was responsible for finding the car. She searched for three weeks, because no one answered the phone number on the card. With help from the Police Department’s Auto Theft Unit, she located the vehicle at Hooked, Inc. The bill was $2,060, and the tow slip had no charges on it except “bill to insurance.” Hooked, Inc. charged $1,200 for the tow, $250 for the yard fee, $250 in administrative fees, $60 per day for storage. Hooked, Inc. wanted cash-only for the vehicle.
Williams and Moreno voluntarily turned themselves in and were arrested on March 19, 2019. Their next status hearing will be April 29, 2019.
Source: The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office
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