Four Chicago-area towing companies are the focus of a lawsuit filed by Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, essentially claiming they towed vehicles and held them for ransom.
Alvarez's office said the towing companies would listen to police scanners and try to get to an accident scene as quickly as possible. Then, with a driver possibly disorientated and frustrated, the tow-truck driver would try to talk the motorist into letting them tow their car, telling the driver that the service would be completely covered by insurance.
"When consumers try to get their vehicles back from the lots, they discover they are not going to get their vehicles unless they pony up $2,000 to $6,500," said Asst. State's Attorney Rosa Abreu.
The suit also alleges that the companies would pad their bills by charging victims for services that were never performed and for the use of equipment that was not needed.
Some of the exhibits filed Monday illustate the story: bills for $2,400, $4,400 and one with a $4,500 total of which an insurance company paid more than half.
Named in the suit are Road America Automotive, City Wide Auto, Pro Auto, Showtime Towing, and their owners, Azzam Al-Hindi, Tareq Al-Hindi, Saher Ashkar and Adel Suhail.
"This affects not just the individual motorist who is victimized and forced to pay excessive costs to recover their car, but it also drives up the insurance rates that all motorists end up paying," Alvarez said in a written statement released Monday.
Alvarez's office said it only has a handful of victims right now, but predicts that there are likely many more.
"It's egregious what is going on, and the consuming public needs to be protected from the rogue tow-truck companies," Abreu said, adding that anyone who believes that they've fallen victim to any of the companies to call Alvarez's office at 312-603-8700.