Get Caught Up: A look inside Detroit’s towing scandal -- how the scheme worked

2 Detroit police officials charged

The Local 4 Defenders are getting new insight into the Detroit towing scandal and how it worked.

DETROITThe Local 4 Defenders are getting new insight into the Detroit towing scandal and how it worked.

The corruption investigation has involved two Detroit City Council members and two Detroit police officials who have been charged in a bribery scheme.

Get Caught Up” is ClickOnDetroit’s Saturday news review to help readers catch up on the biggest stories of the week.

A 20-page federal complaint charging Detroit police Lt. John Kennedy and officer Daniel Vickers gives key details of how the towing system in Detroit worked.

Federal investigators taped conversations between Kennedy, Vickers, and the owner of an unnamed towing company. Investigators said the officers took bribes to allegedly agree to steer lucrative police towing calls to the owner.

Investigators said an officer would call the tow company to tow a car and it would sit in a lot for weeks, accumulating fees. Retried Detroit police Lt. Tom Berry said the tow company then pays the officers involved.

“They get anywhere from $100 to $200 kickback. The tow company would jack the tow fee up to $900 to $1,000 instead of $125,” Berry said.

Victims of the towing scheme told Local 4 that they didn’t even know their car was towed until a police officer told them. Then the car owner has to pay to get their vehicle back. Detroit residents were the main victims of this scheme.

Detroit changes towing oversight in bid to halt corruption

A September 2021 report:

Long-time family-run towing companies in Detroit said they are shocked after the city’s Board of Police Commissioners gave up oversight of towing and how Detroit police handles towing companies.

This means towing companies must now bid for the contracts with the city. The aim is to end corruption related to towing, police and politicians.

Only one commissioner voted against the change.

Read: FBI raids Detroit city hall, council members’ homes as part of corruption probe

“We are the representatives of community part are towers who pay taxes,” said Commissioner Linda Bernard.

This goes back to Boulevard & Trumbull Towing head Gasper Fiore, convicted of bribery, and six Detroit police officers who were found guilty of taking cash kick backs to funnel business to tow companies.

Three members of council are under an FBI investigation, related to towing and corruption.

“I feel like we are tainted by bad actors and things that have been done in the past at this point going forward don’t punish us for anyone else’s get rid of those bad actors,” said Barry Foster with L.I.J.B.S. Towing.

“Just give us the opportunity, be fair to us as well. Don’t shut us out. We never done that to anybody so why do that to us?” said Julie Semma with L.I.J.B.S. Towing.

About the Author:

Local 4 Defender Shawn Ley is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has been with Local 4 News for more than a decade.