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A Detroit Towing Company Allegedly Stole Dozens Of Cars In A Wildly Elaborate Scheme

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

There’s a wildly interesting lawsuit playing out in the City of Detroit right now, in which a towing company says the city illegally yanked its permit to operate, while officials accuse the company, Nationwide Recovery, of having a role in an “elaborate” stolen vehicle scam.

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The situation is tied to multiple investigations into a scheme that emerged last year, involving Detroit police officers who reportedly accepted bribes to funnel work to specific towing companies.

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Then, in July, Nationwide sued the city, saying its permit with the Detroit Police Department was revoked, despite having no connection to the alleged scam. Last week, Detroit said that’s not the case, and filed a lengthy complaint in federal court explaining why, according to The Detroit News:

A 61-page counter-complaint filed in U.S. District Court by the city on Sept. 11 — a response to a July lawsuit by Detroit towing firm Nationwide Recovery Inc. — claims the towing company and its attorney orchestrated the theft of vehicles, which were towed to Nationwide’s east-side lot.

The city also alleges the unnamed Highland Park police officer did not fill out forms to alert people their stolen vehicles had been recovered. After time passed, the owners were then forced to pay exorbitant storage fees when they finally tracked down their vehicles.

The key player here is a guy named Gasper Fiore, who was indicted in May for allegedly bribing officials in Macomb County in a separate scandal involving his waste management company, Rizzo. Soon after, Detroit threw out any contracts with Fiore’s companies, the News reports—including Nationwide, though he’s not listed anywhere as being associated with the company.

The city says it has proof that Fiore’s connected to Nationwide, which, expectedly, says the opposite. As such, Nationwide’s attorneys have responded aggressively to the city, with its attorney issuing a statement to the News that said:

Nationwide Recovery is in the right. The city hired an outside law firm for two reasons: first, the city is rightfully concerned about what it did to Nationwide; second, the career attorneys that work for the city’s law department would never put their name on the pile of garbage that the city calls its ‘counterclaim.’

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Woof. The city’s counter-complaint makes for a lengthy read at 64 pages, but in particular it says Nationwide has recovered stolen vehicles within the city at a “suspiciously alarming rate under highly questionable circumstances.”

The complaint, which you can view below, says in that timeframe the company recovered 217 vehicles, far exceeding other companies in town.

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Nationwide’s clearly aiming to fight back. Deldin, the attorney, who’s also accused by the city of aiding the alleged scheme, took a direct shot at the city in his statement to the News:

“As to the claims against me,” he told the newspaper, “you know that you are doing the right thing when the City of Detroit sues you for being an effective advocate for your client.”

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This’ll be an interesting one to watch.

Senior Reporter, Jalopnik/Special Projects Desk

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DISCUSSION

My brother used to live in a condo complex in downtown Cincinnati. They had quite a bit of free street parking available and they required a sticker or other tag to be visible to park on the private streets. But they only enforced that rule M-F 8am-5pm. After working hours and on the weekends they didn’t care who parked there.

After a couple incidents the residents were sent a letter by the HOA stating that they had gone over the parking hours rules with the towing company and assured the residents that the towing company understood.

A couple months later my brother hosted a small family get together on a Saturday evening. I’d been there about 20 minutes when yy brother in law arrived and said to me “hey, there’s a tow truck hooking up to your car.” I ran outside, my brother grabbed the letter off his fridge and followed me. I told the driver to stop what he was doing, I had the legal right to park there. He said “not according to my contract.” A few seconds later my brother came out and showed the guy the letter from the HOA. The guy started to argue until I said “well, I’m in the right, so I’m going to call the cops and we’ll see what they have to say.”

The cops showed up and after reading the letter told the driver to unhook my car and to tell his bosses that if their drivers were ever spotted down there towing cars after hours again they’d be arrested for felony auto theft.