February 2, 2023
FOIA request C002207-042123 has been submitted to Arlington County:
I would like to request more information on the case described in these Twitter posts:
I had this correspondence with Ben Aiken:
From: Benjamin Aiken
Sent: Monday, April 10, 2023 4:05 PM
To: Matt Chiste
Subject: RE: Advanced Towing property encroachment details?
Matt - glad to help, although I may not have all the info and FOIA would definitely be an option. As of early March, it was my understanding that ACFD moved ahead with compliance actions which included direction to clear the fence from around the hydrant. Other discussions are ongoing with regard to the rest of the alley, which included a Zoning Enforcement case, as well as legal discussions with the County's Attorney and Real Estate Bureau. I haven't been super closely involved since this became more of a private/public property dispute rather than constituent services matter.
Ben Aiken (he/his/him)
Specifically, I'm looking for ACFD correspondence (and not just the Certificate of Occupancy) on the compliance investigation and whether any enforcement actions were taken regarding Advanced Towing's apparent takeover of the adjacent alleyway and apparent non-compliance with parking rules. I also understand there may be a zoning enforcement case and legal discussions with the County's Attorney and Real Estate Bureau, and would like copies of that correspondence and any action taken.
February 2, 2023
Want to see how the sausage is made? Here's the video of VA State Representatives in Richmond discussing raising tow fees again across the state: Virginia House of Delegates Video Streaming
(Jump to February 2, 2023 in the calendar, click the 9:00AM Transportation link, and jump to about 9:24AM to get started on the action, listening to tower after tower speaking up for their rate increases, with only an Arlington County Rep - and no actual citizens - speaking against.)
|Current||Original Proposed House Bill||Final Approved House Bill|
|First Fee (nights)||$25||$35||$25|
|Second Fee (weekends)||$25||$35||$25|
October 4, 2021
Message to ARLNow:
I hope you guys don't forget to cover the Advanced Towing trial on Wednesday and Thursday. This trial is the last hope that anyone in Arlington has of getting any form of justice for the damage this company repeatedly and without consequence inflicts on a relatively small number of residents. I know it's not worth reporting on your site, but below is my resignation from the sham Trespass Towing Advisory Board amongst protest that the Arlington County Board and Arlington Police Department refuses to even acknowledge the crimes that Advanced Towing commits with impunity on a regular basis. I intend to continue investigating/exposing and encourage you all to do the same: Why does the county continually allow this criminal organization to continue operating?
Message to Arlington PD/TTAB and the County Board:
Today's video is a 12 minute audio recording of Advanced Towing, Arlington's "most infamous criminal enterprise", implicitly endorsed and supported by the County Board and Police Department:
The recording captures the overcharging and lies about the county code that Advanced Towing tells its victims, and the repeated claims from its owner that it has no obligation or intention to adhere to any Arlington code anyway.
Consider this my resignation from the useless TTAB. It's always been a sham board anyway, constructed by the lobbying efforts of a corrupt company and supported by a police department more willing to look the other way than be a citizen advocate. I realize tonight that the only thing John O'Neill and I have in common is that we both realized the County Board, the Police Department supposedly responsible for enforcing the law, and the TTAB are all useless wastes of time - John just figured this out years before I did. The only way to get anything done is to focus energy on Richmond and buying off lawmakers at the state level. The hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars I've spent on this effort? Pfft, for a few grand I could have bought off a senator and even a few of the governor's friends; hell, maybe I'd have a cop in my back pocket who refused to enforce the county code and get me the photos that I was legally entitled to from the beginning.
On the Trespass Towing Advisory Board, we talked a LOT about photos or contracts being available for inspection during our meeting BECAUSE THAT IS THE COUNTY CODE. My fellow members of the TTAB pander to me and discuss the topic, but then they turn around and CONTINUE TO DO ABSOLTELY NOTHING ABOUT IT when John O'Neill and his representatives openly and freely lie to his victims and admits that he has no obligation at all to follow anything the Arlington County Code.
I have OVER AND OVER shown video evidence of Advanced Towing refusing to comply with Arlington Code, and have repeatedly asked law enforcement to investigate infractions - complete with video evidence! The video is not in dispute. But John makes a point in this recording that I have just now opened my eyes to: Arlington County code is useless. In his case, it means he can break whatever law he wants. In my case, it means that "law enforcement" will look the other way as these crimes are committed. I get complete and absolute radio silence every single time I report something like this and ask questions about an investigation.
Honestly, I get it - I'm the squeaky wheel that just needs to go away. It's easier for Arlington to just let Advanced Towing violate whatever code they want and tell their victims that John O'Neill has a "gentleman's agreement" with Arlington County and the Police Department... rather than comply with code. Nudge, nudge, wink wink!
Maybe he does - maybe this "gentleman's agreement" that John speaks of in the recording is exactly WHY the County Board and police department refuse to do anything at all about this company? He so confidently explains that THERE IS NO LAW that binds him to anything (despite facts to the contrary). Maybe he DOES have a "gentleman's agreement" with the county's board and police officers that they refuse to publicly acknowledge? At this point, I'm personally shifting my focus from why John O'Neill repeatedly and blatantly flaunts the law (with a mountain of evidence and without consequence) to figuring out why the Arlington Board and Police Department continue to allow him to do this.
While the county's silence speaks volumes about this cited "gentleman's agreement", I know the above salacious questions and aren't backed by facts yet. Now that I'm done with the TTAB and asking the police or county to do ANYTHING about the infractions only to be ignored, I intend to focus my (limited) efforts on the citizen journalism I have been doing. I will follow the leads where they take me: exposing the code violations that Advanced Towing openly flaunts, and digging deeper into exactly WHY the county and PD refuse to even acknowledge evidence of crimes provided to them.
I realize the futility of this effort. While I'm one of only a small minority of victims of this company, I intend to stand up for the little guy - the victims that Advanced Towing exploits, lies to, and threatens. Perhaps through these upcoming FOIA requests I'll end up exposing a bigger story about why the Board and PD regularly look the other way when it comes to this criminal enterprise operating within its borders!
July 3, 2020
To the office of the Attorney General:
As a consumer advocate, citizen journalist, and chairman of the Arlington Trespass Towing Advisory Board (TTAB), I want to thank you for your recent action against Advanced Towing in Arlington, Virginia. Since my car was damaged during a tow in 2016, I have worked to uncover multiple crimes, deceptive and fraudulent behavior, and damage caused by the Advanced Towing's behavior - exposing them through photos and videos on my web site http://advancedtowing-fraud.com/.
I commend the action and offer all content and evidence I have produced for use at your discretion, including my testimony under oath if requested. I also respectfully submit the below information that may assist with the prosecution of Advanced Towing's ongoing and flagrant violations of Virginia statute and Arlington County Code.
I have provided evidence on my site and through my videos that Advanced Towing:
All of the above is available information I have publicly exposed, but there are also audio recordings that have not been made public yet where John O'Neill blatantly says he will not be complying with the law regarding some of the county code he disagrees with. These were taken during Trespass Towing Advisory Board meetings and I can produce these recordings as well as witness testimony.
I submit that the three most egregious offenses are failing to provide photos taken at the time of the tow, those photos being of insufficient quality as mandated by the law, and the refusal to allow for public inspection of the contracts authorizing the tow. There is ample video and audience evidence of these repeated violations being Advanced Towing's standard of practice. These are particularly damaging to the public because the photographs taken at the time of the tow are often the only "witness" of the condition of the vehicle PRIOR to the tow occurring. Advanced Towing makes a habit of denying access to the photos or providing them of insufficient quality because a) there has never been any legal recourse against them for this practice, and b) if they did produce photos of proper quality then those could be used against them for damage claims. They would rather refund the money for a tow because they took insufficient pictures than take proper photos and be subject to liability for damage caused by careless towing. Furthermore, in your lawsuit you have demonstrated cases where victims were towed when the contracts explicitly did NOT authorize the tow. Advanced Towing knows this, and is seeking to hide its illegal behavior from consumers who have no other recourse to either identify who authorized the tow or if it was even authorized in the first place. John O'Neill has openly stated on various recordings that he has no intention of complying with this code.
I implore your office to subpoena a large sample set of photos taken at the time of various tows; I believe you will find that they are either non-existent or not of sufficient quality. Every one of these cases is a violation of the law, a practice that hurts consumers who may be the victim of damage. And every one should result in the maximum fine allowable by law.
Thank you for your consideration.
June 23, 2019
Advanced Towing continues to violate the law with impunity, whcih is no surprise given that at the last TTAB meeting the Arlington Police assured the tow companies on the board that legislation designed to help enforce the law would "not be used against the people in this room". Arlington Police also tried to make it harder for residents to get assistance with recovering the photographs they're entitled to (by forcing residents to get notarized signatures when elisting assistance).
John O'Neill makes it clear that he believes he and his customers should be able to operate in complete secrecy. And he knows the law - even blatently boasting to the police charged with enforcing it in the last TTAB meeting that he doesn't plan on following it. When I attempted to follow the law and review a copy of a contract, he called the police. When I asked the officers on the TTAB (who are conveniently also charged with enforcement in Arlington) what is the procedure for what happens when John refuses to follow the law, the Arlington Police ignored me.
Which brings us to June, 2019. Arlington County Code says:
§ 14.3-5. A-9. The tow truck used to perform the tow shall include the name, street address, and current, local telephone number of the towing and recovery operator permanently affixed in a conspicuous location on the exterior of the truck.
Pretty clear, right? But again, remember that John O'Neill believes he should be able to operate in secrecy, he knows the police refuse to enforce the law against him, and he doesn't believe the law applies to him. This is a pretty toxic environment for residents. But, again, when I reported this code violation to the Arlington County Police on 6/9/2019, I was again ignored and to my knowledge the police don't intend to enforce this law.
Here's a video of Advanced Towing blatantly violating this code violation - not to mention that the video shows the driver hauled the car for several blocks without applying any straps or otherwise securing the load:
(So what, you ask? An honest mistake, you say? To the former question, I say the purpose of the law is so that residents witnessing violations can notify the company or call them directly. To the later, I again refer to John's repeated insistance that he should be able to operate anonymously. He knows what he's doing - I'm sure he's completely thrilled that his company's contact information wasn't on his truck it became part of a crime scene the day his employee literally stabbed someone.
And here's the email I sent to the Arlington Police, who flagrantly ignored me for the second time when bringing a code violation to their attention:
Sent: Sunday, June 9, 2019 5:31:40 PM
CC: CountyBoard; Brian Stout
Subject: Another Arlington Tow Code Infraction by Advanced Towing
[To the Arlington County Board: I again implore you to investigate why the Arlington County PD seems to 1) ignore code violations of Advanced Towing, 2) refuse to levy fines against the tow industry like they presumably do against the taxi industry 3) make recommendations to the county board designed to make it difficult for residents to protect their rights and property, and 4) make promises to tow companies on the TTAB that code designed to help enforce the law wouldn't be used against those companies "in the room".]
To the Arlington County P.D. "Tow Industry Enforcers":
As you are well aware, Advanced Towing continues to defy the Arlington County Code, and to the best of my knowledge, nothing has been done by the Arlington County Police to force compliance on a variety of issues despite the police having the power to do so for years.
You are also no doubt aware that Mr. O'Neill of Advanced Towing firmly believes that his spotters should be "judge, jury, and executioner", and that he should be able to operate in complete secrecy to hide the identities of those that employ him "unlike virtually any other legitimate consumer business out there. He is well aware that the county code prevents this veil of secrecy, and continues to be defiant, openly stating in the last TTAB meeting that he will not be complying with that law. When I brought video evidence of this behavior to the attention of the Arlington PD and sent the below email on 1/14, I received no response whatsoever. Of course, this is not surprising given that an officer on the Trespass Towing Board recently promised the tow companies in the room that legislation designed to help enforce the law would not be used against [them].
Nonetheless, today I bring you evidence of yet another Advanced Towing code violation. In addition to making false claims to Arlington P.D. in order to hide the identities of the businesses that employ it, this is evidence that Advanced Towing also violates the law to hide their own identity. Specifically, Arlington County Code says: § 14.3-5. A-9. The tow truck used to perform the tow shall include the name, street address, and current, local telephone number of the towing and recovery operator permanently affixed in a conspicuous location on the exterior of the truck.
Video of Advanced Towing performing a tow (without securing the load and driving for several blocks) without information required by county code can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUF5rePseKM
Here is the reply from the county that I got the following week, but as of 6/23, still no response from the police.
From: Benjamin Aiken
Sent: Friday, June 14, 2019 1:29 PM
Cc: Police <email@example.com>; TowComplaints <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Latasha Chamberlain; CountyBoard <CountyBoard@arlingtonva.us>
Subject: re: Another Arlington Tow Code Infraction by Advanced Towing
Thanks, on behalf of the County Board and staff, for sharing this message. I'm not sure if he was able to contact you, but Brian Stout has left County employment effective yesterday. I don't yet have a new formal towing contact in the County Manager's Office, but as soon as that role is assigned we'll let you and the other Trespass Towing Advisory Board members know. I spoke with ACPD about these recent issues and they assure me their efforts are ongoing around bringing the tow vendors into compliance. This has, and will continue to be a work in progress as I'm sure you understand. Thank you again for your advocacy and for your service to the TTAB as the citizen representative.
If you have questions in the interim, please feel free to contact me and I'll try to direct the best I can.
Have a great weekend!
Director of Constituent Services
Arlington County Manager's Office
And one more response:
Sent: Sunday, June 23, 2019 1:35 PM
To: 'Benjamin Aiken'
Cc: 'Police' <email@example.com>; 'TowComplaints' <firstname.lastname@example.org>; 'Latasha Chamberlain'; 'CountyBoard' <CountyBoard@arlingtonva.us>
Subject: RE: Another Arlington Tow Code Infraction by Advanced Towing
Thank you for the reply Ben; I didn't expect an answer from the police department, despite the obvious and repeated code violations.
At this point, after the appalling behavior in the last TTAB meeting and the police's refusal to even reply to me when I report code infractions, I believe at this point this cozy relationship should be investigated between these two groups to determine if the police are, in fact, acting in the best interest of the people to "protect and serve", or if they're just doing everything they can to protect John O'Neill and his violations in the hopes that I'll eventually go away.
At very least, I believe the county should remove John O'Neill from the advisory board, and the police officers who enforce the law should be different than the ones advising on it.
Jan 26, 2019
From: Matt Chiste
Sent: Saturday, January 26, 2019 6:21 PM
To: 'CountyBoard' <CountyBoard@arlingtonva.us>; 'Erik Gutshall' <email@example.com>; 'Libby Garvey' <Lgarvey@arlingtonva.us>; 'Christian Dorsey' <firstname.lastname@example.org>; 'Katie Cristol' <email@example.com>; 'firstname.lastname@example.org' <email@example.com> Cc: 'Brian Stout' <Bstout@arlingtonva.us>
Subject: Trespass Towing Legislative Changes (proposed by the Resident Member to contradict the TTAB recommendations)
To the Arlington County Board:
As a member of the Trespass Towing Advisory Board (TTAB), I am requesting the Arlington County Board to reject the TTAB's recommendations from 12/11/18 as written, and include language that protects consumers who are regularly victimized by Advanced Towing (which currently has the monopoly in Arlington, in the legislative process, and in the cozy relationship with the officers enforcing the law). To be clear, I am not anti-towing and believe that there can be a balance between residents, businesses, and honest and ethical tow companies, but residents have been victimized by Advanced Towing for too long and I believe additional legislation may help to curb abuses. My statements are factual and backed with evidence at my web site http://advancedtowing-fraud.com/ and in two videos at https://youtu.be/oDK4z8__JPA and https://youtu.be/qtKWd3Okce0.
In the three years since Advanced Towing damaged my vehicle during a (legitimate) tow, I have witnessed an appalling amount of illegal and unsavory behavior from Advanced Towing and its owner John O'Neill. While I am a member of the Trespass Towing Advisory Board, you likely know that the TTAB is little more than an industry advocacy group where industry insiders make "recommendations" for their sole benefit at the expense of Arlington Residents. And when he doesn't like the recommendations or feel that that the TTAB is giving too much of a voice to residents, John has spent thousands lobbying to have the law changed at the state level to overturn county law and get dissenting voices like mine removed from the board.
I am writing today to make you aware that the recommendations of the TTAB following the December 11, 2018 meeting should not be accepted as written. Specifically:
Thank you for your consideration. I welcome any questions, comments, or feedback, and look forward to the open hearing where these recommendations are discussed in front of the County Board.
Back in November, an Arlington resident witnessed some predatory towing at the Giant in Virginia Square and wasn't happy with the way vehicles or residents were being treated. So he took the unusual step to complain multiple times to management, including this email:
Sent: Wednesday, December 12, 2018 12:24 AM
To: Consumer Affairs <AUSA_ConsumerAffairs@epowercenterdirect.com>
Subject: Re: Ref # 1885560 - Reply from Giant Food Consumer Affairs
I originally emailed you late in november concerning the contract between the virginia square giant and advance towing. When I complained to that stores manager at that time, he told me that he had only been there for two months and was from fredicksburg, wasn't sure about what was happening, but he'd look into it.
Yesterday, 12/11/19, roughly two weeks later, an acquaintance of mine visited that store and witnessed an advance towing truck in the parking lot, taking up one of your precious spaces. When he questioned the manager inside, he was told by that exact same manager that he had only been there for two months and was from fredicksburg, wasn't sure about what was happening, but he'd look into it.
I can understand why he might have been embarrassed, but why the blatant dishonesty?
You told me earlier that you would pass my concerns up to the district manager. Could you please just give me that persons email ?
Additionally, if you're not to ashamed of yourself, could you email me a copy of your contract with advanced towing ?
Amazingly enough, this response came on 12/28/2018:
On Dec 23, 2018, at 10:44 AM, xxx Good Morning
Wanted to follow up with you to let you know we have suspended our towing service. While we further investigate our current company.
Wanted to follow up with you to let you know we have suspended our towing service. While we further investigate our current company.
I can't say for certain that Giant will continue this suspension (or even if it continues to this day). Honestly, if trespass parking continues to be a problem, they SHOULD find an honest and reputable vendor to help them address this problem without damaging vehicles - I've said before and I'll say again that businesses have every right to protect their property. But, there are other tow vendors in the region, and not all of them are run by such shady operators as Advanced Towing.
Hopefully this resident's story goes to show that vehicle owners DO have a voice, and businesses have a right to hear from their patrons when they have a complaint. John O'Neill with Advanced Towing has openly stated that he will not comply with the law to provide residents with access to the contract authorizing a tow, and in the video below he has demonstrated his willingness to go to extreme lengths to avoid complying. The Arlington Police have refused to state on the record what they would do to enforce compliance, and appear complicit in allowing Advanced Towing to keep operating as they have while blatently disregarding the consumer protection laws already in place.
From: Matt Chiste
Sent: Sunday, May 20, 2018 9:51 AM
Subject: Request to remove John O'Neill from Trespass Towing Advisory Board
To the Arlington County Board:
I am writing this open letter today to ask that John O'Neill be removed from the Trespass Towing Advisory Board. Over the years, John has been responsible for lies to residents, judges, police officers, and the Attorney General's office. John has leveraged his near-monopoly power in Arlington and considerable lobbying dollars to undermine local ordinances or silence alternative points of view on the TTAB. John recently encountered a law that was inconvenient to his business (requiring contracts that authorize a tow to be available at the site of the tow), and his course of action was to use his pulpit on the TTAB to attempt to change the law. At the time, even I voted for the change, since I was under the impression that a resident or their representative could just pick up a copy at the tow office with the photographs taken at the time of the tow. However, when I went to assist a resident to exercise the right to get access to that tow, John called the police and had both of us removed from the lot, banned from ever returning. We were never able to see the contract. John knows that many residents are too intimidated to make these requests, so by preventing me from legally helping residents access these photos and contracts, he is again hurting consumers' ability to defend themselves against illegal tows and damages caused as a consequence.
I know these are big claims, but I have documented incontrovertible proof of these claims in a new 30 minute video here:
I respectfully request that you view all or part of it to hear and see a perspective that you will never get through the TTAB while John is chairperson.
John currently enjoys the ability to manipulate state law, local law, the TTAB, and the Arlington County Police. While the county is legally required to take advice from a biased and recently crippled advisory board, nothing in the law says that its chairperson has to be run by the local monopoly holder in town. Last year Arlington County expanded the border from which tow companies could operate from. I suggest that the county board install a member from one of those new businesses to get a greater diversity of advice from other tow companies in the market.
I am available to provide additional evidence to substantiate my claims or answer any questions arise from the video or counter-claims from other members of the TTAB.
4/22/2018 - Towing in Arlington, Virginia is a $2.7 million/year business. Advanced Towing accounts for roughly $1.6 million of this figure. For details on specific lots and companies, click on the map below.
2/18/2018 - There are a lot of things that are important to me, like honesty, integrity, and fairness. That's why I have spent so much time and energy on what those in the towing industry (and perhaps some in the business community) enjoy mocking me for. When I first met John O'Neill, he said something that left an impression on me - basically, that he was the "most hated man in Arlington" and he just has a really thick skin. I respect him for that, and can't really fault him for some of the legal tactics he has used to further his agenda of fighting any form of regulation around his business. His words have helped me deal with the vitrol I get from those defending his practice and industry - it's nothing personal, and we're all just fighting for what we believe in. When John paid thousands to "lobbyists" to have the state government override a local ordinance designed to curb predatory towing, he had every right to do that. Frankly it was kind of brilliant to use local businesses to help get the law passed - and then "sneak in" a few other provisions for his benefit (like getting more money for himself on each tow, crippling the advisory board that makes recommendations to the Arlington County Board on legislation, and for some reason allowing him to tow cars with pets in them). On the flip side, I have every right to publicize these facts.
Since that horrible law was passed at the state level, the only voting member of the Trespass Towing Advisory Board who represented vehicle owners and businesses (ironic because those are often two opposing factions), has resigned from the board. In September the County Board appointed me to fill that role. Now, I am now the sole voting resident on the Trespass Towing Advisory Board for a 3-year term (ending in September 2020), and as of my first meeting in November of '17, John O'Neill is chairman of that board.
I plan to continue to use this space to fight for consumer rights and expose as much as I can about this process, as I believe sunlight is the best disinfectant. The meeting minutes for the November meeting have still not been posted online as of 2/18/18, and I'm still trying to find out why. And I'm trying to get the date on when the recommendations by the towing industry will be presented to the County Board so I can inform you all when the public hearing is. I will update this page when I find out, and provide some commentary on the meeting once the minutes and recommendations are published. Spoiler alert - the only 3 things I recall us voting on are 1) electing John chairman of the advisory board, 2) removing the legislation that allows tow victims access to the contracts justifying the tows, and 3) we had a unanimous vote that this board does NOT equally represent citizens of Arlington.
In the meantime, I think it is important to emphasize that everything on this page is factual to the best of my knowledge, and I have provided evidence of all claims, making clear when statements are my opinion rather than fact. While Advanced Towing has threatened me with legal action regarding this site, it is my contention that exposing these practices and actions are a) in the public interest, and b) not libelous because they are facts, and every American is free to publish such information.
If you have followed any of my comments below or in places like ARLNow.com or YouTube, I have presented the fact that Advanced Towing representatives lied to a judge in testimony during a criminal case (Case #CR16001498-00, 10/20/16) on at least 3 occasions (evidence below). They submitted the most obvious lie into public record as evidence during their court case, and it was that lie that prompted the judge to dismiss the case. Specifically, they submitted into evidence a partial photograph claiming that it was the photo "taken at the time of the tow". I have demonstrated below that this evidence was NOT a copy of the photograph, but a small portion of it that they submitted to the Arlington Police. It was not until months later during an investigation by the state's Attorney General that I finally obtained the actual copy of the photograph to prove that the evidence they submitted to the judge was NOT a copy of the photograph taken at the time of the tow. I shouldn't have to define the word copy for an educated laymen, but simply put, any reasonable person would conclude that this is not a "copy" of the Mona Lisa:
Having both an approximation of the photo Advanced Towing submitted in court (since I believe it was a screen capture from my video, I don't know the exact frame they took) as well as an actual copy of the photo obtained months later, the above rendition of the Mona Lisa is the same percentage of the original image they presented in court. Which is a) clearly not a copy and b) clearly doesn't convey the original content. So it is simply a FACT that the evidence in the public record is NOT a copy of the original image. And, it is a FACT that not having access to that image compromised my ability to fight the case in civil court. It is my OPINION that Advanced Towing knew both of those facts, and that hurting my chances of a successful civil court complaint was their ultimate objective.
So while we're talking facts here, another ARLNow.com post popped up a few days ago, which itself appears to be factually incorrect. The subject is "Lopez Touts Changes to Bill That Would Have Raised Towing Fees in N. Va.", and text in the blog post reads "Lopez says he reached an agreement with the Republican patron of the bill, Del. David Yancey (R-94), to amend it to remove the large towing fee hike. It will instead raise the cap to $150 statewide, while also letting Northern Virginia localities set their own towing rates by removing a requirement - currently in law - that the rate be set at $135.". But the text of the bill itself tells a different story: that our rates in Arlington will be going up once again, despite the bill being deceptively named "SB 492 Towing; increases maximum hookup and towing fee for passenger vehicles". For Arlingtonians and most of Northern Virginia, this bill increases the MINIMUM hookup and towing fee:
Another fact: these posts about towing usually bring out the same cast of characters every time (myself included). It usually devolves into me posting facts and opinions about how the industry operates, and a handful of others who hide their identities, attack me personally, and repeatedly imply that vehicle owners are criminals who have no rights ("if you didn't park illegally, none of that would have happened!"). Let me profile a few:
|Screen Name||Most Notable Quote(s)||Who I think is behind the anonymous posts||Why|
|Amazing Grace||Sounds like a BIG OJ Simpson conspiracy to me. I bet the police and county officals are in on it too. Lol.||J Sundstrom||On November 4, 2016, J Sundstrom wrote the following to the Attorney General's office about my case (emphasis mine): "Vehicle Damage Claim - Mr. Chiste claimed his car struck a piece of rebar that was protuding out of a concrete curb stop when it was towed from a parking space. Mr. Chiste's storyline suggests the tow driver damaged his vehicle and insiuates (sic) there is a conspiracy against him of OJ Simpson/LAPD mangintude. Mr. Chiste makes various claims, in so many words, that our "Company" is deceiving or conspiring against him.". It seems really weird that two different people would conjure up a decades-old court case, particularly one that I don't recall had anything to do with a "conspiracy". It was also strange that Mr (Mrs?) Lundstrom kept referring to me as Joey or Jimmy, as if that was supposed to mean something. Interestingly, though, our friend "Amazing Grace" has been largely absent from the dialog in the past year since I made the connection between Advanced Towing and that account (on ARLNow and below).|
|Chloe||(August '17) Aren't you the same Matt who came at me the last towing story? The same Matt who lost lost to a tow company in court? The same Matt who sued major travel and/or booking agencies and lost?|
(February '18) That victim being you? Same victim that tried to sue a major travel site and and and lost as well?
|J O'Neill||"Chloe", who refuses to identify him/herself or her business claims "I did some research on you". But in October of 2016 Mr. O'Neill wrote the following to various members of the County Board and TTAB: "It also doesn't appear to be the first time Mr. Chiste has tried to involve himself in a class action activity. According to records Mr. Chiste may have pursued a class action lawsuit against a large travel reservation website but that case too looks like it was dismissed. Not sure if this is a pattern of behavior or just a coincidence.". "Chloe" (who I presume is Mr. O'Neill's alias) doesn't even try to make the accusation that I'm "just in it for the money" or something - s/he just keeps bringing up that case from almost a decade ago with no context. I'm guessing because in Mr. O'Neill's mind, he's already established the context when he writes those posts in a public forum.|
|ArlingtonRaised||This is not Advanced Towing, just saying. [2014 post defending Advanced Towing because a commenter posted an Advanced Towing picture on a post that wasn't about them - a strange thing to do for a "local business"]
Matt, I find your page funny. Not funny as in the content amuses me, but that so much time and effort was put into this and it has literally served you no good. Give it up man and just don't park illegally
LOL @ Cindy. Your comment made me laugh. Not because it has any validity, because it's ridiculous. Guy gets slandered by Identity theft that effects his business, your suggested move is to spend money to hire a PR team to donate to charities. LOL
|A Clarendon bar owner who, like me, enjoys the use of colorful language from time to time.
Just some random bar owner who hates trespass towers and for some reason feels compelled to repeatedly defend Advanced Towing
Update 2/25/18: After further dialog with this commenter, I now believe he truly is who he says he is - a local business owner who is fed up with people using his parking spaces. We have agreed to meet at the next TTAB meeting, and I will honor his wishes to remain anonymous if he so chooses. Being a "public figure" is not for everyone - the attacks can be ruthless sometimes. And just because you don't want to be identified doesn't mean you shouldn't have a voice in this debate.
When I challenged ArlingtonRaised to "prove" he didn't have a vested interest in Advanced Towing, he did that and then some. While we may not all believe in the solutions (or even that there is a problem in the first place), at least we agree on the same facts, and that's a start! He has convinced me he really is just a local businessperson who doesn't believe Advanced Towing should have free reign to do whatever they want. Here is his comment - thank you for this, ArlingtonRaised, whoever you are :)!
Absolutely. "No business is above the law. Every business should be held accountable when they refuse to follow the law. When a business is negligent and damages the property of an individual in their possession, they have an obligation to repair that damage." No business is above the law, that's just a fact. Business should be accountable 100% I think its fair to say many people (including myself) cross the line with comments on this forum. I'm quick to jump and try to vent before inking my thoughts. Doesn't always work out that way! But I try. Look forward to meeting you at a TTAB meeting in the future.
This account is a bit of a mystery. His attacks on me started about a year ago, but his defense of Advanced Towing has been on the record for at least four years. He has attacked other bars, called himself a "Clarendon Bro", and praised two Clarendon bars. But if he's a bar owner, it's weird he would attack some other commenter complaining that Advanced Towing towed his car 10 minutes after midnight on the day his tags expired, no? The story wasn't about being towed from a bar... He does explicitly say he doesn't work for Advanced, but brings up Advanced Towing when it's not even relevant to the story - like this one about a Vespa theft. He likes his weed (but who doesn't?) and hates former Board Member Jay Fissette. So my guess is as good as anyone else. For now all we know is that he will continue to attack me for calling for common-sense enforcement of laws on the books, he'll repeatedly victim-blame me and others by saying we deserve to have our vehicles damaged because we're criminals, and he'll randomly comment defending Advanced Towing in unusual blog posts. And of course he'll be an unabashed hypocrite for making comments like this: I watched my own vehicle get towed once, right here In Arlington. That was the last time I risked a spot that was not mine to park in and the last time my vehicle was towed. Just spitting facts here people. Follow the rules!... but time and again mocks and shows disgust for anyone else insisting that Advanced Towing ALSO needs to follow the rules.
5/7/2017 - Last month I finally made the tough decision to not take my case to court. The decision was based on not having more time, and the fact I will never receive compensation for the damage that Advanced Towing caused to my car. Even if I won the case in court, I'd end up paying more to a lawyer anyway. Advanced Towing holds all the cards: They know that capitalistic forces don't affect them since their "customers" don't have a choice of who tows their cars when they make mistakes. They have no financial incentive to be responsible with the care of vehicles. They know that the police department is unable to intervene for damage claims. They will disavow any damage caused to vehicles and openly state that they have no obligation to review evidence to the contrary. They will prevent any cases against them from being heard in small claims court, knowing that this will prevent most people from attempting action because the cost of a lawyer usually outstrips the cost of damages they cause. And they have proven willing to intimidate (following me to my car when I visited to legally get access to photographs of a vehicle) and lie to a judge (that a copy of a photograph has been provided to me, among other things).
What a year it's been. I spent an enormous amount of time pursuing action in criminal court, and was nominated as a non-voting member to the Arlington Trespass Towing Advisory Board where I was credited for having some consumer-friendly language added to local code. But the criminal case, after countless hours of my time, was overturned because Advanced Towing lied to the judge at least 3 times according to the evidence I have provided below. And the industry (no doubt led by Advanced Towing), enraged by consumer-friendly code enacted by the Arlington Board, took the issue all the way to the state government, getting legislation passed that applies only to Arlington (and surrounding counties), singling me and 9 of my peers on the Advisory Board out to have us removed, and overturning local legislation that is still in effect in other Virginia municipalities.
As I wrap up my individual case, I have one final piece of information I want to share in the hopes of educating other victims of this company. Last year, I filed a formal complaint with the Consumer Protection Section of the Office of the Attorney General, which was investigated. I never signed an NDA and have no obligation to keep this confidential, so I'll share the below email in full so that others may know what they are up against if they attempt to file a complaint. I should note that you should do this first before attempting any legal action, as the AG won't follow up if you already have tried some other path. If you've been a victim yourself, don't hesitate to reach out to me for advice on navigating the complex path you must take to attempt to pursue justice.
One side note I'll point out about how far-reaching these guys will go: you'll notice the strange reference to OJ Simpson in this email from "J. Sundstrom" at Advanced Towing to the Attorney General's investigator, accusing me of spouting off "conspiracies". Then take a look at the comments on this post on ARLNow.com:
Coincidence that this anonymous freedom-fighter commenter on ARLNow makes the same 20-year old reference? I don't think so, do you? Just kidding, it's not a coincidence. This person has been trolling me on the comments on ARLnow for a while now, and has done background checks on me to try and harass and discredit me.
Below is the response from Advanced Towing to my complaint after the interview with the investigator. In blue you'll see my responses that I sent back to him in response. Neither the original email from Advanced Towing (in black) nor my responses (in blue) have been altered.
The powerful Tow Lobby is attempting to pull off a coup. They've got a bill before the state legislature that would roll back all the consumer protections that the Arlington County Board implemented in December. This bill, HB 1960 is an egregious abuse of power. It specifically undermines the board's towing code, raising the towing rate AGAIN (but only in Northern Virginia), override Arlington's "real-time authorization" requirement (again, only in Virginia - VA Beach's "second authorization" law that has been in place for a long time remains untouched), and undermines any semblance of impartiality on the Trespass Tow Advisory Board. Yes, they're literally going out of their way to pass a law singling out only our Arlington Advisory board, and only to get me and the other 9 non-voting members of the board removed, and remove Ms. Iacomini (the sole resident on the board) removed as chairperson. Really, you can't make this up: the towing industry is trying to pass a law REQUIRING Arlington to have a Towing Advisory board to advise on legislation, and FORCING Arlington to remove over half of the members because they're not insiders. Insidious!
The lobby and industry would have you believe this "second signature" law is bad for business and tells them what they can do on their private property. But it is simply a powerful consumer protection law in an industry that has time and again been anti-consumer, damaging private property and conducting illegal tows. The measure doesn't prevent businesses from removing a trespassing vehicle from their property, it simply requires property owners to confirm that said vehicle is trespassing at the time of the tow. We've all heard the Taco Bell Story as evidence that this law is needed, but today I present you with another example.
Let me let reader "F" explain (email complaint to firstname.lastname@example.org partially modified for clarity and to remove Personally Identifiable Information):
First understand I am a yoga business owner, who responded to my client's car being towed. Erroneously. As such, I am not your normal tow truck victim. In fact, I was not expecting to be nearly stuck by an angry tow truck driver when getting out of my car to assist in retrieving my client's vehicle. I was not the victim of being towed this evening, but I was nearly run down purposefully and out of the blue.
Advanced Towing has no current contract with any entity to tow from our lot on 5th rd. In point of fact, there is no signage enabling them to tow from the area in question, that I control personally.
I am the owner of the business and they stole a car from our lot about 10 hours ago, and then extorted me for $135, because they towed it 50 feet (next door). They refused to release the car even though it is obviously their mistake. They also initially lied about having the car until confronted with video evidence from my surveillace cameras.
Here is video of the car being removed from our lot unlawfully:
Unrelated to that, here is video of a tow truck speeding, driving recklessly and attempting to hit me as arrive to retrieve the car. when I challenge his intimidation techniques of speeding past me and reving his engine, by raising my arms and yelling down the street, he u-turns and almost runs me down. He was swerving at me while reving his engine. The street was full of witnesses including the security guard from mercedes nextdoor who claims he saw the whole thing and agrees the man was driving like a psycho.
We have been at this location for 5 years and have largely ignored their shenanigans but this has crossed a line.
I would like to file a criminal complaint for attempted hit and run and we have many witnesses in addition to the video. The tow driver proceeded to attempt to connect to a car, but actually smashed into the bumper. Later we find out its his own car. I took photos of the tow truck smashing his own car, they are attached but blurry (dark red 4 door sedan).
I told officer capizzi #1605 that I wanted to file a complaint about the reckless driving and that we have surveillance video evidence of the tow truck drivers reck-less driving and intimidation tactics but he did not care to take a complaint (swing shift?). This tow company, our next door neighbors, is out of control.
In the past they have parked their trucks and the cars they tow in our lot, and we have overlooked it because we are good neighbors. They have even occasionally threatened to tow our vehicles if they get blocked in (yes, they're ballsy enough to unlawfully park in our lot, get blocked in and then threaten us).
I will be giving them the news in writing tomorrow that they are banned from our property and if I catch their vehices there I will lock them up myself or tow and impound them. I would appreciate any and all suggestions from you on what my options are.
To be clear - the tow truck driver who owns this red 4 door sedan in attached photos, attempted to run me down tonight when I arrived to pay to retrieve the car from their tow lot. I never even spoke to this person so I don't know what his problem is.
The moral of this story? Simple and obvious: The "second signature" law is designed to protect businesses like his. He has no contract with Advanced Towing, who essentially stole one of his customer's cars. If the second signature requirement had been in place, he would have denied the authorization to tow this car in the first place.
In November, a reader who we'll call "G" reached out to me with her story. In a nutshell, her car was severely damaged during a tow - both front AND back bumpers. She had just gotten it out of the shop the day before in perfect condition, and was appaled to not only find this damage on her car after the tow, but that Advanced Towing denied they caused it. In this case, she alleges, they even tried to fix some of the damage by using a screw to hold the bumper back on instead of the normal factory-installed clips. Here are some pictures:
She filled what's called a Warrant in Debt in Arlington court, thinking she'll be going to small claims court, where "The judge shall conduct the trial in an informal manner so as to do substantial justice between the parties. The judge shall have the discretion to admit all evidence which may be of probative value although not in accordance with formal rules of practice, procedure, pleading or evidence". In other words, it's like the People's Court; no lawyers are allowed and both sides just present their cases for the judge to "do substantial justice". But, Big Towing has Big Lawyers on their side, and they're aware of a little quirk of the law: "Removal to another Court: Pursuant to The Virginia Code Annotated Title 16.1 Chapter 6 Article 5, Section 16.1-122.4, a defendant has the right to remove the case to the general district court at any point preceding the handing down of the decision by the judge.".
So, G goes to court only to find out that she's not in small claims court, she's in over her head against a lawyer in district court, who immediately has all her evidence thrown out because she's not a lawyer and doesn't know the proper procedures for evidence. Boom, she's out $1,800 and Advanced Towing lives to wreck another car another day.
Here's where I come in. Remember our old friend Arlington County Code § 14.3-11? Specifically: Such record shall be maintained for a period of at least one (1) year from the date of each tow, and shall be made available, during normal business hours, for inspection and copying by any representative of the County authorized to enforce the provisions of this chapter. In addition, the portion of such log or record pertaining to a particular vehicle shall be made available, during normal business hours, for inspection and copying by the owner of the vehicle or the owner's authorized representative?
Since she has since moved and is understandably intimidated by the process given what she's seen on these pages, she makes me her authorized representative to go get a copy of the photograph. My first attempt was unsuccessful; after waiting around for 15 minutes after having the window slammed in my face, an employee tells me they won't be providing me with the pictures because despite the notarized letter, I didn't have a copy of the owner's registration of the car to prove it was her car. But what was notable about this situation was that John O'Neill, the owner, was there, and during the transaction (which I recorded) John stood behind the clerk taking pictures of me and telling me to "smile for the camera". When I left empty-handed, John followed me to my car as what can only be perceived as an act of intimidation, recording me on his phone and making a grand gesture of taking multiple pictures of my car and license plate. The law is clear: I was exercising G's right to a copy of the photographs, and yet John felt it was important to attempt these kinds of intimidation tactics.
The next day, armed with a copy of G's registration, the photograph was waiting for me. Rudeness isn't illegal so I took the window-slam-in-the-face trick again with a grain of salt, but now I had what was legally entitled to G and I: a photograph taken at the time of the tow. Or, as the law says: "The towing and recovery operator performing the tow shall obtain and retain photographic and/or video evidence clearly showing the location of the vehicle, substantiating the reason for its removal, and the condition of the vehicle."
HA! You didn't think this story would have a happy ending did you? THIS is the photograph we were provided with:
The picture suggests that the one in the back (the arrow added is mine) is her car, but obviously this photo doesn't "clearly show the location of the vehicle" nor its condition. So, we filed a complaint with Arlington. It took months and several follow-ups, but as of 1/24/17, Arlington has decided in her favor and returned with the following ruling:
Thanks again to you and Matt for bringing this issue to our attention. We continue to say that our complaint process is not only a way for us to work to address any issues with the towing of the individual, but also highlight areas for us to address with the towers operating in Arlington County, either through ordinance changes or through emphasizing these issues through enforcement actions. That is the case here and we appreciate you making us aware of this.
The County has informed Advanced Towing that the picture taken and provided below does not meet the requirements of the County's ordinance and that you are therefore entitled to a refund for the full amount charged to you. Please contact Advanced Towing at 703-241-2211 and ask to speak to Mike Reynolds - he will take care of this.
With regards to your damage claims, this is civil matter that the County does not have a role in.
So, the moral of this story? First, don't think that small claims court will help you. Hire a lawyer (I'll let you know when I find a good one!) Second, you have a right to these photographs, and the new legislation is even stronger - requiring at least FOUR pictures of your vehicle taken from each corner of the car BEFORE the tow. Third, don't allow these people to intimidate you. Be professional, courteous, and respectful and their attempts to intimidate or embarrass you publicly will fall on deaf ears. Finally, if you feel a law has been broken, file a complaint! The county is actively trying to help consumers when it comes to violations of the law, but will not be able to help you pursue civil damages.
As you have seen in the 10/20/16 update, Advanced Towing was brought before the Arlington Circuit Court for failing to provide me with a copy of the "photographs taken at the time of the tow". While I am no lawyer, the textbook definition of perjury seems to apply in that case, as multiple false statements were made during the proceedings, including that I was promised a copy of the picture in question, that there were "5 or 6 customers behind me", and that I had already received a copy of the photograph. For each of these claims:
So the judge's ruling overturning the previous criminal conviction was based on the lie that I had already received the pictures. I took this information in my complaint to the Consumer Counsel of the Office of the Attorney General. While I was somewhat disappointed that the office didn't pursue any charges, the investigator was able to accomplish something that my countless hours of work both inside and outside of the courtroom weren't able to do: he got an actual copy of the photograph taken at the time of the tow! I present that picture here, which supports my allegation that the car was moved in the 3 minutes between the first and second photograph (in the second photo the front bumper is several feet from the curb and angled back and to the left, despite the car being parked fully into the spot in the photo 3 minutes earlier):
The response from Advanced Towing included quite a few gems trying to discredit me, but this one kind of took the cake: "Mr. Chiste's storyline suggests the tow driver damaged his vehicle and insiuates (sic) there is a conspiracy against him of OJ Simpson/LAPD mangintude (sic).". While it was a somewhat ridiculous line, it later allowed me to identify the person trolling me on ARLnow.com's comment section for the blog post Arlington County Board Approves Towing Changes, Despite Some Business Opposition:
Yes, thank you J. Sundstrom for all your helpful comments on ARLNow.com as it relates to towing, your attempts to discredit me, and for trying to paint all trespass towers as malicious criminals! Keep up the great work behind that anonymous "Amazing Grace" facade.
I set up a new site at ArlingtonTowCode.com with details. Please visit that site and let your representatives know your thoughts on providing additional consumer protection in the Arlington Code for trespass towing. If you don't, there are currently some amendments proposed that are very detrimental to consumers, and may pass if we don't make our voices heard! The final decisions will be made in the county board meeting on December 13th, which I encourage you to attend and speak at!
On 11/5/16, the Arlington County Board convened to discuss many topics, notably #40: "Request to authorize advertisement of a public hearing on proposed amendments to Chapter 14.3 of the Arlington County Code, Trespass Towing". Below are my notes attempting to summarize the discussion for those who don't have 90 minutes to watch or listen to the entire thing. It is not a complete transcript and some quotes may not be precise. And while I've attempted to capture all key points in the discussion, I am admittedly biased and there is the possibility I may have missed important details. Please view the video for a more precise recounting of the discussion. Time stamps in the below list are approximate points in the video, not the time of day.
|Video Timestamp||Discussion Notes|
|3:07||Discussion starts. Brian Stout gives a good overview of the purpose of the county code (protecting consumers as well as businesses) and general tow density maps showing tow concentrations.|
Mr. Stout summarizes the Staff recommendations based on the two TTAB meetings.
|3:26||Nancy Iacomini presents the TTAB recommendations.
|3:36||Public speaker: Jim Hurysz (resident). He suggests that residents could be appointed to the board as the law enforcement representatives, and to consider increased enforcement of handicap spots.|
|3:37||Public speaker: Kate Bates (representing some property owners, but not clear in the video which organization she belongs to).
|3:39||Public speaker: Sarah McKinley (VP of Columbia Heights Civic Association)
|3:46||Jay Fisette proposes three additional amendments for advertisement (which means this is not a final decision, but open to solicit community feedback). He says the goal is modest, limited burden and regulation, but with effective protection of consumers and citizens. He also cites the biased nature of the board and how they have attempted to give others such as property owners, vehicle owners, and even AAA a voice by appointing some non-voting members of the board.
|4:05||Data is brought up showing the number of complaints and tows are very low. Mr. Stout mentions the violations and enforcement are complaint-driven, and agrees with Mr. Fisette that the number of complaints and violations is on the low-end since not every complaint is reported through the proper channels. Additionally, a case was discussed where a resident claimed that a no parking sign was knocked down in last year's blizzard, and the signs were improper. The county agreed there was a violation and the customer was refunded. However, if indeed the sign was knocked down during the blizzard, then there technically would have been about 200-250 improper tows, arguably each of them a violation. [editorial: This number is based on a FOIA request I made; the count is an estimate based on this data. I personally believe that each of these people should be able to request a refund as well; if you parked in the Fresh Bikes parking lot between late January and mid-September, you were improperly towed since a sign violation was found].
The summary of this conversation was simply that the data should be taken for what it is, and it is clearly not representative of 100% of the complaints (since people sometimes just pay and drop the issue, or complain on social media) nor violations (since a single violation might apply to hundreds of tows).
|4:10||Mr. Vihstadt mentioned the observation that by contrast there doesn't appear to be any shortage of folks contesting parking tickets, and that it might be helpful to get that comparative data. Mr. Fisette indicated that this was an excellent segue into his next amendment:
|4:14||Mr. Fisette proposes last amendment.
|4:21||Ms. Cristol proposes another amendment.
The following is the video evidence provided for my complaint to the Division of Consumer Counsel of the Office of the Attorney General, so that they may hopefully bring action against Advanced Towing in Arlington, VA in civil court under § 46.2-119 for a violation of subsection A and B of § 46.2-118:
A.1. No tow truck driver shall ... Use fraud or deceit in the offering or delivering of towing and recovery services.
B.1. No towing and recovery operator shall ... Use fraud or deceit in the offering or delivering of towing and recovery services.
For those of you that didn't have the time or inclination to view the full 17 minute video documenting my situation (which is still embedded below), this 6 minute video is significantly more concise:
First off, my thanks and gratitude go out to Arlington's Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Bill Turner for his work in attempting to prosecute the criminal case against Advanced Towing on July 22nd (guilty verdict) and the appeal on October 20th (charges were dropped). The criminal case is described below, and basically boils down to the fact that as a citizen I have a legal right to get a copy of photographs taken at the time of the tow. (At least for now, as the Trespass Towing Advisory Board has recommended removing the requirement anyway).
Second, congratulations to Advanced Towing and their lawyer for simply out-lawyering us and securing the win. I respect the judge's verdict and the case for criminal charges is now closed. I'm sharing information about this public case to help others who may try to seek justice in a similar way, and as usual everything on this site is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge.
My first tip in trying to pursue justice this way is: don't. Just accept that there is no justice in the world and that this organization will continue to behave as they have been. Report your frustration to email@example.com and save yourself further trouble and wasted time - I know I'd love to get back the dozen+ hours I've spent on this! You might go ahead and contribute to the vast pool of complaints on Google, Yelp, the BBB, etc.... but don't expect anything to come of it.
Of course, you're not here because you're just going to roll over, right? You're going to try to get justice because if you don't speak up, who will? The law is there for a reason, and if a company chooses not to follow it, you want to pursue justice in any way you can! If the case is a criminal one, the first step is to have the Arlington Magistrate file a criminal summons. (Remember, predatory towing is not criminal, but the complaints about not producing pictures, not accepting a drop fee, not calling the tow into the police prior to the tow, etc - these are all legitimate criminal complaints!) The officers who monitor the firstname.lastname@example.org email address can help you with that process. You would think the officers could just write a ticket or something to the company, but unfortunately that's not the case. Instead, the Magistrate's summons will result in the case being brought in court by the county against the company, and you'll be the witness. You'll spend hours waiting in court, and even if you get a guilty verdict against the company (like I did on July 22), the company will no doubt appeal, so get ready to spend more hours in court for that.
As a witness you'll present your case, but you're not the plaintiff - which means you can't even talk to the lawyer when the case is being tried. Trust me - you just have to sit back and listen - I tried approaching the lawyer during the trial and was kicked out of the courtroom for a while! You'll also want to have a thick skin and be able to bite your tongue. The Advanced Towing lawyer tried to paint me as a crazy person who's bent on harassing the company. He started the case by making the false claim that I had taken pictures of the screen at the time I picked up the car the first time.
During my testimony, he asked me questions like "how many times did you call them? 50?". I answered "no, about 3 or 4". His next question was "Oh, 3 or 4 times per day?". He did the same thing about emails, implying I sent dozens (of course, they know I only sent 3-4 and they ignored every single one of them - you can see those emails at the bottom of this page). He even brought up this web site, which arguably has nothing to do with the fact that the company didn't allow me access to a copy of the photograph.
The crux of their counter-claim was that these photos have already been provided. I explained twice (and even got thrown out of the courtroom trying to explain a third time by approaching the lawyer's desk!), but my advice to you guys is to cover every single base the first time. In my mind the fact they haven't provided me with the full photograph is cut and dry - but they convinced the judge that they had provided the photo. What they did provide is a camera phone picture of the originals off of their computer monitor. Here's one photo they provided (I put it inside a mocked-up monitor to make my point here):
They sent two other pictures, but a) they're only two parts of the original photo and not the whole thing, and b) unlike the original, these photographs were not taken at the time of the tow. They are partial copies of the original; I've mocked up what the original picture should look like based on the two partial shots I have:
So they convinced the judge they have already provided the photos, via one false statement during the opening statement and one failure on my part to explain that these are not the photos taken at the time of the tow. Again, I'd have loved to be able to explain this when I walked up to the lawyer, but got kicked out instead because, hey, first time in court, ya know :)?
I was allowed back in the court room after a few minutes but never had an opportunity to speak again. Instead I had to listen to the clerk who showed up in that video below testify. She made a claim that "the second picture is on another computer in the back". As you can see in my video, she never mentioned that in the recording. Another claim was that the recording doesn't show the whole conversation. This is true since she took my phone to take a picture of the computer screen, but then she went a step further and made the claim that she told me when the camera was off that "[I] could come back later to get a copy of the picture but she was busy because there was a line of 5 or 6 customers behind me". Of course, I was never given the opportunity to refute this claim, or request that they prove the claim with their own security camera recordings. (Strange how their security camera footage makes an appearance when it's beneficial to them, but that's another issue.).
Clearly it's her word against mine that she made those two comments. I say this because if you're going to court, you really need to think about every single possible statement - true or false - that the other side can make, and try to address it before it comes up. For example, if I'd have known the judge was going to be confused about me not having a copy of the picture taken at the time of the tow, I'd have produced the above graphics to demonstrate what I meant about them not being the actual photographs. If I'd have known that the clerk would claim that she told me I could come back later for pictures, I'd have made the case that why did she spend the next 3 minutes in the video saying the photo "is not here", rather than saying "just come back later"? Her testimony was that basically she told me to come back later when she was holding my phone, and then spent the next 3-4 minutes denying she had the picture there. Logically it doesn't make sense that she'd say one thing when the camera is off briefly and another for 3 full minutes when it was on, but again - one person's word vs. the other.
Or, if I'd have known she was going to testify that there were 5 or 6 people in line, which is why she didn't have time to get the other picture, I'd have produced this part of the video, showing just 1 person in line as I walked away, and I would have testified that that person had just walked up at the end of the 3 minute interaction:
Finally, be aware that the other side may try to mischaracterize your intentions. In this case, the lawyer convinced the judge that I only went back for the photos to "harrass" them because I already had a copy. But given that I still to this day don't have a copy, why is this photo important to me? Because, as mentioned in the video below, I believe that the full version of that second photo - taken 3 minutes after the first - will prove that the vehicle was moved between when the first photograph was taken and when the second one is. That proof is what I wanted to pursue the damage claim in civil court, which is also why I believe they have steadfastly refused to release this photo.
All of this is to say, before you go to court, be ready! Try to think of every possible claim the other side can make, and don't make the assumption that every claim will be truthful. And of course, no matter how strong you think your case is or how obvious it seems, be prepared to lose. In my case, while the law says a copy of photographs taken at the time of the tow have to be provided to the vehicle owner, the judge dismissed the case because of the (false) claim that I already had a copy of both pictures. So, fight the good fight, but know that the process is long, complicated, and may not always end up with the judgment you're looking for.
Good luck out there, don't park where you're not to, and as always drop me a line at email@example.com if you feel you've been victimized by this industry - one of the few industries with the luxury of having involuntary customers with no choice to bring their business elsewhere.
The last towing advisory board meeting was on 9/15. You can view the meeting packet here, and the minutes of that meeting here. As I am now a non-voting member of the board, I had a unique opportunity to speak on behalf of residents, and wanted to share my thoughts with the Arlington Community and specifically the Arlington County Board. These thoughts are coming from me as an Arlington resident and victim of Advanced Towing's criminal and negligent activity, and in no way represent the opinion of the board itself. (Full disclosure: "criminal activity" refers to the misdemeanor conviction against Advanced towing which is currently under appeal, and "negligent activity" has not yet been proven in small claims court.)
The meeting was cordial and I am in awe of how Nancy Iacomini gracefully handles the board as Chairperson, even as the only "independent" person on the board (comprised of her, 3 members of the industry, and 3 members of the police force). The tow industry brought along its usual cadre of lawyers and lobbyist who heckled more than once, questioning the legitimacy of her as chairperson, the board itself, and the "suspiciousness" of the timing of the meetings. When someone balked at what term to use for vehicle owners, they called out "Lawbreakers! They're lawbreakers!" ... as if that doesn't mean us "lawbreakers" have rights (and ignoring the fact that I have proven once in court that Advanced Towing has broken the law as well).
Again, the meeting minutes are here: https://arlingtonva.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2016/06/TTAB-Recommendations-to-County-Board-9.23.16.pdf as part of the public record. What follows is my own personal opinion and thoughts on the deliberation, and is not a representation of the board's opinion or stance on these matters. However, in November or December (date is TBD), these recommendations will be made to the Arlington County Board to be codified into law. I strongly encourage all interested parties of this industry to attend and take advantage of the public hearing, as these recommendations are not yet set into Arlington law. I strongly recommend going here to sign up for email updates so you're notified when this date is set.
And now, some highlights of the 9/15 board meeting:
So... that's about it for now. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you've got any opinions about the meeting, the industry, or a specific company - positive or negative!
Wow, it's been an interesting week!
I started this site back in April to expose the fraudulent and deceptive practices of one Arlington tow company, but it feels like it has grown to so much more. I have heard from many of you out there who have been victims as well, and also from a shopowner who wanted to make his voice heard in this complicated dialog. While deceit - especially in a "self-policing" industry where customers don't even have a choice to do business with a different vendor - is inexcusable, I understand this all does fit into the larger question of how to strike a balance between parkers, businesses, and the tow companies we have essentially "deputized" to enforce our trespass laws for us.
I'm going to try and figure out how to update this site to be more readable - probably in a blog-type format - as it's getting pretty overwhelming to try and digest it all as it is. Once I do that I'll post reader comments and more stories I've heard from both sides of this argument. And of course, I'll also fact-check the remaining content to ensure everything is still 100% true and accurate to the best of my knowledge (for example - since this site has gone up, Arlington has posted a treasure trove of new documentation regarding the towing advisory board, and Advanced Towing has withdrawn the deceptive claim on their site about "Zero BBB Customer Complaints").
This is an open letter to the following people and organizations:
A.1. No tow truck driver shall ... Use fraud or deceit in the offering or delivering of towing and recovery services.
B.1. No towing and recovery operator shall ... Use fraud or deceit in the offering or delivering of towing and recovery services.
The facts and evidence presented in the below text and video will demonstrate that Advanced Towing in Arlington, Virginia:
The towing industry in Arlington, Virginia is a dirty, largely unregulated business. The regulations that are in place were put there by industry insiders - and are often not even followed if the many complaints on Yelp or the Better Business Bureau are to be believed. While most "trespass tows" are inconvenient and infuriating, they are in fact perfectly legal and don't result in vehicle damage. Predatory towing is unsavory but not illegal, and there is no grace period provided in the County's ordinance. But at the same time, customers of these tow companies do have a reasonable expectation that their vehicles will not be damaged in the towing process, and that the drivers will take care to practice their trade responsibly. If a vehicle is damaged, customers have a reasonable right to expect compensation for that damage. At very least they have a right to a reasonable investigation on the part of the towing company without being victims of lies and deceit. I have personally been such a victim, and this site is intended to expose that fraudulent behavior with a preponderance of evidence.
First, a word about the term "customer". Whether willingly or unwillingly, when my vehicle was towed I became a customer of Advanced Towing. On their web site, the company attempts re-define "customer" as: "Individuals, private property owners, and businesses who require towing services, not owners of vehicles towed from private property are our customers.". They do this to make the deceptive claims: "Zero BBB Customer Complaints" and "The BBB has a zero complaint rating from our customers". This is simply deceit, and illegal under § 46.2-118. The Better Business Bureau agrees (emphasis mine):
On July 14, 2015, the BBB contacted the business regarding its website advertisement stating, "The BBB has a zero complaint rating from our customers." The BBB requested that the company modify the claim since BBB policies define a consumer of the business as someone who has a commercial relationship with a business. Under BBB national policy commercial relationships are created when a business does work for a customer or when services are rendered to a third party that has an effect on the complainant. The claim was based on the BBB's Code of Advertising General Principles prohibiting claims which are untrue or misleading. The company has placed under its ad claim language that indicates that it does not regard the complainants to be customers as it states their customers are the owners of the properties from which they remove cars. The company also answered the BBB's inquiry by making a similar statement. In the opinion of the BBB, the company has not substantiated its claim.
Now that we've properly defined "customer" we can assume that we have certain rights under the Consumer Protection Act, among other things. Specifically, § 59.1-200. Prohibited practices of the Consumer Protect Act prohibits:
"14. Using any other deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, or misrepresentation in connection with a consumer transaction".We can also make the general assumption that, for a tow company, unwilling customers (illegally parked vehicles that have been towed) vastly outnumber the willing customers (property owners and residents needing roadside assistance) since there are multiple tows from individual lots. This is an important point that underscores the need for additional regulation; it is clear that this "self-regulating" industry neglects to provide any consumer protection to the vast majority of its customers simply because it can, since that majority of its customers are unwilling participants in the "commercial relationship" and are unable to take their business elsewhere.
Imagine if a rental car company charged you for damaging a vehicle you rented, since you are responsible for damage to a vehicle in your possession. If you didn't do it, your first action would be to appeal the decision and provide evidence that, say, the damage already existed when you rented the car. If the company was reputable, they would have a process in place to review the evidence and make a decision on the counter-claim. They may even cut you a break if it's a "borderline" case because they're interested in keeping your business. If they were not reputable or the situation wasn't resolved to your satisfaction, you as a customer could simply stop doing business with them.
With towing companies, there is no incentive to provide any meaningful service or consumer protection because they don't have to do anything to "keep" your business. Worse, they appear to feel free to demonstrate negligence during towing, deceit during the appeals process, and blatant lawbreaking during the investigation (all these facts will be proven in my video below). Their logic is obvious: most of their victims are out a couple hundred or thousand dollars and won't have the time or energy to fight them individually in court - and they are aware that the Arlington County Police will not intervene in most cases since they call these "civil matters". I do find it gravely suspicious that if a tow truck driver rear-ends you at a stop sign or throws a rock through your window, as a citizen you have a right to file a police report - but if that same driver rips your bumper off your car during a tow because they failed to check its position, you can't. Only stricter regulation and strong fines will act as a disencentive to continue these practices, since this is an industry unaffected by "normal" capitalistic forces.
Edit 6/16/16: It seems this is mandated by State Law. Nonetheless, I have left this section in here to illustrate the fact that the board is not completely unbiased in their advising to the Arlington County Board, and that should be taken into account when developing new legislation.
Speaking of regulations, I have spent a tremendous amount of time dealing with this situation but as close as I can tell, Arlington County Code such as Chapter 14-3 Towing and Storage of Vehicles is passed by the Arlington County Board under advisement from the Trespass Vehicle Towing, Advisory Board.
Here's what's really weird - on that page, a full 90% of all board- and manager-appointed groups are links providing details about the various groups and commissions, but the "Trespass Vehicle Towing, Advisory Board" is not a link allowing residents to get additional details. Many of the other links, such as the Bicycle Advisory Committee provide details, including meeting notes, contact information, and members. The closest way I could find WHO is a member of the Towing Advisory Board was to search the 2015 appointments, and the results were amazing. [Edit 7/13/16: It seems this has been fixed! There is now a link to the Trespass Towing Advisory Board page with all kinds of additional information - including the fact that the board is open to public comments for some new changes they're putting in place. More on this later..] Of the seven VOTING members of the board, 6 members are either Arlington Police or representatives of the towing industry, including John O'Neill, who runs Advanced Towing. As one commenter on this ARLNow post Who Will Tow the Tow Truck? showing a driver sleeping in his truck parked in a no-parking zone says: "The lunatics are running the asylum - the owner of Advanced Towing, John O'Neill, sits on Arlington County's Towing Advisory Board.".
Here's the breakdown of the composition of the advisory board as far as I can tell from 7/21/15:
|Non-voting Members||Voting Members|
|Resident - Noah Smith||Towing Industry - Al Leach|
|Residential Property Owners - Bruce MacQueen||Towing Industry - John O'Neill|
|Residential Property Owners - Charles Clohan||Towing Industry - Fred Scheler|
|Commercial Property Owners - Brian Gordon||Arlington County Police Department - Sergeant Paula Brockenborough|
|Consumer Organizations - Charles Abernathy||Arlington County Police Department - Darren Cassedy|
|Tenants and Citizens - Matt Hussman||Arlington County Police Department - Detective Tom Rakowski|
|Tenants - Joshua Robinson||Arlington County Residents - Nancy Iacomini|
|Arlington County Police Department - Sergeant Steven Meincke|
a consumer information sheet, supplied by Arlington County, which will include, among other things, the fee limits and operator requirements established by this Chapter, the non-emergency telephone number of the Police Department, the business telephone number of the County official responsible for handling consumer complaints, and any other information the County determines is necessary to provide to the vehicle owner or his agent. The consumer information sheet shall also include a statement informing the consumer that a copy of the sheet shall be provided to them by the towing and recovery operator with their receipt.
Nice, a regulation to give a sheet of paper along with the receipt containing some consumer protection information, right? Look at how this clause somehow got re-written by 2014:
a notice to vehicle owners, provided by Arlington County, which includes information regarding the County's towing ordinance and the contact information for the Arlington County Police Department. Such notice shall be posted in both English and Spanish..
§ 14.3-8.B was also removed in the final draft about what should be provided with the receipt: "In addition, the towing and recovery operator shall provide to the vehicle owner or agent a photocopy of the consumer information sheet referenced in Section 14.3-7A(2)". Goodbye consumer protection!
The vehicle owner shall have the opportunity to inspect the vehicle and any items contained therein prior to payment. No towing and recovery operator shall require a vehicle owner to sign any waiver of the owner's rights to receive compensation for damage to the owner's vehicle as a condition of the vehicle's release.
Of course this strangely omits any explicit definition of the damage caused by the tow company being their responsibility, but having the right to "inspect the vehicle prior to payment" is pretty useless anyway when the company simply produces fabricated evidence (a fact proven below), and it's an obviously pointless clause because having the right to inspect before payment means nothing since the company would simply not release the car if there was a dispute over damage. Basically this clause gives the right to the tow company to hold a damaged car indefinitely (presumably at $50/day) if an owner has a dispute about damage and refuses to pay for the tow.
§ 14.3-11. Records.
A. Every towing and recovery operator shall maintain a record of the following information for each vehicle that it has towed from a location within the County:
- the date and time that the vehicle was towed;
- the date and time that the vehicle entered the facility at which it was placed for storage;
- the make, model, year, VIN number, and license plate number of the vehicle;
- the address of the property from which the vehicle was removed;
- the name and address of the person and/or entity who authorized the tow;
- the video or photographs taken at the time of the tow;
- the towing and storage fees actually charged;
- the date and time the vehicle was reclaimed, and by whom; and
- a copy of the receipt provided to the vehicle owner or agent.
B. Such record shall be maintained for a period of at least one (1) year from the date of each tow, and shall be made available, during normal business hours, for inspection and copying by any representative of the County authorized to enforce the provisions of this chapter. In addition, the portion of such log or record pertaining to a particular vehicle shall be made available, during normal business hours, for inspection and copying by the owner of the vehicle or the owner's authorized representative.
(Ord. No. 06-11, 7-8-06; Ord. No. 07-18, enacted 12-15-07; Ord. No. 09-15, 5-16-09)
§ 14.3-12. Violations. Except as otherwise specifically provided, any violation of this chapter is unlawful and punishable by a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000.00).
(Ord. No. 06-11, 7-8-06; Ord. No. 07-18, 12-15-07; Ord. No. 09-15, 5-16-09)
It is my understanding photos were reviewed during his initial inquires and the damage he claims appeared to be present prior to towing.
We sent the website he posted to our attorney. As a result counsel said there are sufficient grounds for a civil suit against Mr. Chist and we have authorized him to begin that process.
I will forward the info we have to you. If you need anything else please let me know.
To Libby Garvey, Jay Fisette, Katie Cristol, Christian Dorsey, and John Vihstadt:
Q: Why doesn't Arlington County force businesses to share parking outside of normal business hours?
A: Arlington County does not have the authority to tell private property owners how to control their property. Arlington encourages businesses to share parking, and some successful arrangements are in place. Free parking is also available at parking garages in Arlington County Government facilities after 5 p.m. weekdays and all day on weekends.
California (V C Section 22651.07): "Generally the owner of a vehicle may recover for any damage to the vehicle resulting from any intentional or negligent act of a person causing the removal of, or removing, the vehicle."
Texas (Texas Transportation Code - Section 684.084): "(a) A towing company or parking facility owner who violates this chapter is liable to the owner or operator of the vehicle that is the subject of the violation for:
(1) damages arising from the removal or storage of the vehicle"
A.1. No tow truck driver shall ... Use fraud or deceit in the offering or delivering of towing and recovery services.
B.1. No towing and recovery operator shall ... Use fraud or deceit in the offering or delivering of towing and recovery services.
|4/19/16 8-8:30PM||I parked in the lot of the defunct Alpine Restaurant.||The lot was clearly marked as 24 hour no parking zone.|
|4/19/16 8:35PM||Arlington Police receives the call that my car is about to get towed in accordance with Arlington County Code § 14.3-6. Notice.||This timestamp was confirmed with Arlington Police (703) 558-2222 on 5/12/16.|
|4/19/16 8:40PM||An email is sent from Jeep indicating the alarm has gone off (either during the initial break-in to the car, or the initial lift of the car).||Unfortunately I didn't get the email until later.|
|4/19/16 8:42PM||The driver takes a picture of the back of the car.||This is the time stamp shown in the photograph provided.|
|4/19/16 8:45PM||The driver takes a picture of damage to the front of the car.||This is the time stamp shown in the photograph provided.|
|4/19/16 8:49PM||Another alarm is triggered from Jeep and another email sent.||It's assumed that this is when the actual tow started.|
|4/19/16 3:00PM||I go to pick up the car at the lot.||I observe the damage and report it to the tow company|
|4/19/16 3:05PM||The tow company shows me two pictures on a computer screen, one showing the back of the car and one showing the damage to the front.||I left the scene believing that somehow the damage had occurred previously, despite having never seen it before.|
|4/19/16 3:05PM||The tow company shows me two pictures on a computer screen, one showing the back of the car and one showing the damage to the front.||I left the scene believing that somehow the damage had occurred previously, despite having never seen it before.|
|4/19/16 3:35PM-5:53PM||I send a series of emails to AdvancedTowingCompany@gmail.com (documented below) imploring the company to look at the evidence.||All emails are ignored.|
|4/19/16 4:00PM||I call the Arlington non-emergency police line to inquire about filing an accident report.||I'm told that this is a civil matter, which is odd because if a tow-truck driver rear-ended me at a stop light, I would file a report.|
|4/19/16 4:02PM||I call Advanced Towing at 703-525-0550.||The woman is hostile for 8 long minutes, claiming to have not seen the emails, and refusing to look at any evidence provided thus far. She refuses to send me the two pictures she showed me while on-site (a direct violation of Arlington code § 14.3-11.B.), and the call ends with her telling me "I'll see you in court!"|
|4/20/16 11:13AM||I call Advanced Towing again at 703-525-0550.||The woman tells me to just put it on my insurance. She claims she hasn't seen the email, has not reviewed the evidence, and "does not need to" review it. She hangs up on me.|
|4/21/16||I spend hours documenting the evidence and creating a video that the company refuses to even look at.||The video is posted to Youtube as I attempt to find other victims of this type of practice.|
|4/21/16 4:29PM||I file a police report for fraud on Arlington County's Online Police Reporting System.||Like the phone call (which was about filing an accident report), the online report was rejected as the police department considers this a "civil matter". Again, odd.|
|4/22/16 10:49||Found on Arlington's web site, I email email@example.com and have a brief correspondence with a Sergeant Brokenborough.||She receives two pictures from them and forwards them to me. In reviewing the pictures, they are cropped from the originals (a cell phone camera taking a shot of the corner of a computer monitor), and I suspect Advanced Towing deliberately cropped them to conceal the position of car, which may indicate it had been moved in the time between the pictures. She also informs me that because Arlington considers this a "civil matter", the police department has no jurisdiction over the case.|
|4/22/16 11:00AM||I file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.||I'm not optimistic of any further action here; the company has an F rating on the BBB and ignores all complaints (45 of them in the past 3 years). The BBB itself calls them out for lying on their web site saying they have "no customer complaints with the BBB".|
|4/28/16 10:49AM||I receive another email from Sgt. Brockenborough informing me she received a response from Advanced Towing.||They admit to seeing the evidence (since they also have informed him that they intend to file legal action against me to suppress the evidence I'm sharing on this web site), and implicitly ignore it without any comment other than to claim "the damage he claims appeared to be present prior to towing".|
|5/2/16 - 5/6/16||I take the car to Darcars Collision Center for repair.||With rental car, the cost is over $2,000|
|5/12/16||I return to Advanced Towing to get access to the pictures as is my right by Arlington County Code.||The lady lies to me and claims she doesn't have the picture on-site (despite me being able to see the computer screen), which would be yet another violation of Arlington's Code to preserve pictures for 1 year.|
|5/14/16||The BBB informs me that the company has ignored my complaint and ask if I have reached a resolution.||I answer no.|
|5/14/16||Updated video evidence on this site to include video of Arlington County Code violations.|
|5/15/16||Sent email to firstname.lastname@example.org requesting the company be fined for non-compliance with Arlington Code.||They are very helpful, and put me in touch with the Arlington Magistrate, who will eventually issue a criminal summons to them on 5/25.|
|5/16/16||Called Advanced Towing to inquire about the price of consensual tows.||I was quoted $80-$90 for a tow similar to the one I had for my unconsensual tow - a 60% premium that Advanced Towing no doubt cites as "administrative overhead".|
|5/21/16||Updated the site with the open letter to Arlington Board|
|5/24/16||Another correspondence with Sergeant Brokenborough.||I am informed she doesn't believe the Arlington Code as it is written has been violated, and she points out text on this site that could be misinterpreted to indicate that the Arlington Police Department has been anything but helpful, friendly, and responsive. I fixed the text and apologize for the ambiguous language that led to the misinterpretation.|
|5/25/16||I file a criminal complaint with the Arlington Magistrate.||A criminal summons is issued for 6/15 based on the evidence I have provided that Advanced Towing has violated Arlington County Code § 14.3-11. I'm told this is a largely unprecedented process, and that we're basically all figuring this out as we go along.|
|6/9/16||I call the Commonwealth Attorney's Office at 703-228-4410 to inquire about how to bring video evidence into court since they don't allow electronic devices.||I eventually speak to Assistant Attorney Bill Turner, who says that he doesn't see the case on the docket, but it sounds like a civil case. I point out that it's a violation of Arlington Code, which is why the Magistrate filed in criminal court. He gives me his direct line to call back after the case to let him know how it goes. It seems very few people in Arlington have ever stood up for their rights this way by insisting the Arlington Code be followed, but he was very helpful with what he did know.|
|6/10/16||I get a response from Jay Fisette from the Arlington County Board.||He is incredibly nice and offers to schedule a time to meet with me in person (scheduled for 7/14). He copies additional County employees who are "engaged in the towing issue" and indicates that the staff are planning to have a public hearing at the next meeting of the Tow Advisory Board - the date is TBD but he mentions we'll be notified.|
|6/15/16||I go to the criminal court, presumably as a witness.||Well, I waited in court staring at the wall for 2 hours. Despite the summons being for 9AM, I sat in court until 11AM staring at the wall and wishing I was a lawyer because for some reason *I* can't bring my phone into court, but they can. So I basically just watch all the lawyers check their phones for 2 hours and watch a parade of criminal trials go on. I pull the public prosector aside for a moment and ask about the case; he says that he saw it on the docket but thought that it was just to schedule a court date, but that I should stick around because "it's a weird case" and he's not very sure about it. I give it another hour, and finally give up at 11AM (contrary to the countless hours I've spent on pursuing justice here, I do have a job :) ). I'm later told that a continuance was issued until 7/22, although it's unclear who filed it. Will update more after then.|
This company has been getting away with fraud for way too long. See these results at NBC Washington for a long history of reports on them. Some choice picks:
Following is the email thread I've sent to the company; the woman on the phone (see recording in above video) claims to have never seen it, but I've gotten no reply whatsoever from whoever IS reading the email:
Date: April 20, 2016 at 5:53:20 PM EDT
Subject: RE: Jeep bumper picture
OK Final email for today as I continue to research the civil suit.
I want to be clear that I do not yet believe that you personally have committed fraud. But the photographic and video evidence indisputably show that the bumper of the Jeep was ripped off as a consequence of the Jeep being parked over the concrete curb with a piece of rebar sticking out, which had enough clearance on the way in but was ripped off on the way out as a direct result of the back end of the car being lifted up. And the "photographic proof" provided by Advanced Towing was confirmation that the driver tried to cover up this accident.
I caution you personally on the next steps to research the definition of fraud: http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/fraud.html. Specifically, the following four criteria must be met:
1) a misrepresentation of a material fact: I believe the video and photographic evidence prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that that bumper was ripped off because of that rebar.
2) by a person or entity who knows or believes it to be false: While the driver has done this, it can't be proven that you have done this yet; I suspect at this moment you just believe what the driver told you and are taking a hostile stance because it's company policy.
3) to a person or entity who justifiably relies on the misrepresentation: I believed you when you showed me the "photographic proof" that the damage was already there - I even said "oh yeah, you guys would have towed from the back anyway because the car was parked against the wall". I justifiably relied on that evidence at the time and left without further confrontation - before finding the documented evidence in the parking lot. (for this reason even if there's some disclaimer that I waived rights to an insurance claim when I left, that disclaimer is void based on the fraud)
4) actual injury or loss resulting from his or her reliance. The actual injury and loss will be properly documented, including the car repairs, the rental car while it's being done, and the lost time on the job for dealing with these unfortunate events.
At this point, my suspicion is that you believe your current claims to be true, but once you question your driver you will find that they are not and that he did indeed try to cover up the accident. But when that happens, as a representative of Advanced Towing (the "entity"), if you continue to deny this claim, I believe a court of law will agree that all four criteria are met to convict the business or individuals of fraud, which carries a substantial legal weight - again quoting from the above web site:
Penalties for fraud offenses may include criminal penalties, civil penalties, or both. Most criminal fraud offenses are considered felony crimes and are punishable by jail, fines, probation, or all of the above. Civil penalties may include restitution (paying the person back) or payment of substantial fines (geared to punish the behavior). The penalties for your offense will depend on the nature, type, scope, and severity of the action and whether it was committed by an individual or an entity, such as a business, corporation or group. - See more at: http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/fraud.html#sthash.2ZSKrfxz.dpuf
Sent: Wednesday, April 20, 2016 5:14 PM
Subject: RE: Jeep bumper picture
Here is the video of the spot where your driver did the damage and tried to conceal it with the photo - you can clearly see the rivets ripped out and the plastic all over the rebar and concrete: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57saZn9xv5M&feature=youtu.be. I have saved these and a sample of the plastic from the rebar for evidence.
I have also started research on filing a small claims civil suit, and came across the following links:
I plan to fight for justice on this through whatever means necessary, including legal action and media. I invite you to see the email I just sent NBC Washington:
Again, I cannot iterate enough that I'm hoping for an amicable solution to this situation; I don't think you were lying and really believed what the driver told you, and possibly have taken a hostile stance because you yourself get a lot of fraudulent claims and have to defend the firm and your employees. I don't think it was on purpose, but it was an accident the driver tried to cover up, and I believe I have provided enough evidence that will hold up in the legal system as well as the court of public opinion. If we can make this a simple insurance claim for Advanced Towing, I would be happy to settle with that. If not, I intend to expose the fraudulent behavior proven by the photo you showed me "proving" the damage already existed (for the record, should this email be admissible in court at a future date, you just told me an hour ago that it's Advanced Towing's policy to save pictures for 1 year, so if they are not available at the time of trial or subpoena at very least this is a violation of policy and at most, perjury). If it comes to this, at some point the public will realize that there is no need for a fraudulent firm to exist in Arlington, especially given a repeated string of violations that top all other firms combined:
Please let me know at your soonest if Advanced Towing would like to file this as an insurance matter on its insurance for a simple accident, or if I will have to attempt to pursue other avenues for justice.
Thank you again,
Sent: Wednesday, April 20, 2016 4:20 PM
Subject: RE: Jeep bumper picture
I'm sure you deal with a lot of people accusing your company of damaging cars, and you may completely trust the driver of the tow truck, but I'm asking you to do the right thing and look at the evidence.
The bumper was clearly torn outwards, which is what pulled it away from the car:
The whole right side is separated:
There are scrapes on the lower right part of the bumper going outwards:
And the biggest evidence: THE PLASTIC FROM MY CAR IS STILL ON THE REBAR (don't bother trying to go clean it up; I've already got a ton of pictures and took samples):
My car alarm went off two times: once at 8:40PM and once at 8:49PM:
So the picture that was taken at 8:45 confirms what happened: the driver started backing away, ripped the bumper off, and put it back to take the picture at 8:45.
I am desperately hoping you will be able to get the truth out of your driver and admit fault to repair the vehicle given all of this evidence, but I am prepared to file a claim if I need to. I am sure there's a possibility that you would rather take your chances by simply continuing to deny this preponderance of evidence and hoping I don't take further action, but I genuinely believe that there's a chance that YOU will be able to get the truth from the driver who caused the damage.
Please let me know at your earliest convenience if you deny any of the above evidence,
Sent: Wednesday, April 20, 2016 3:35 PM
Subject: Jeep bumper picture
I was just in there picking up my black 2015 jeep and thought you guys had broken the bumper. You sent me a picture (time stamped 8:45PM last night) - would you mind emailing me that picture and the one of the car in the spot so I can use it for my insurance?