The owner of a Van Nuys towing business and two of his drivers have been charged by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office with alleged predatory practices, including overcharging drivers who parked in a Northridge lot.
Steve Garcia Sr., owner of Valley Impound Garage, 14821 Calvert St., and drivers Steven Garcia Jr. and Aaron Aguilar Cruz will be arraigned on Sept. 20.
The trio was charged following an investigation by detectives with the Los Angeles Police Commission into a complaint from a woman who alleged Valley Impound illegally towed her car from a lot located at 9241 Reseda Blvd. in Northridge. The woman said she was told she could have her car back for $120 right away or $280 if picked up from the Valley Impound lot.
Los Angeles Police permits a towing rate starting at $121.
The investigation found 10 other drivers who alleged their vehicles were illegally towed from the same lot between September of last year and this January, according to the City Attorney’s office.
“Holding vehicles ransom and charging excessive fees for their release is an outrageous and unscrupulous business practice,” City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a prepared statement. “My office will continue to crack down on predatory businesses, hold their operators accountable, and protect Los Angeles drivers.”
Garcia Sr., 60, was charged with unlawfully taking a motor vehicle, towing a vehicle without making a good faith inquiry that a vehicle was parked for one hour, charging an excessive rate for towing and storage and operating without a state motor carrier permit.
He was convicted in April 2008 on four criminal counts of violating tow truck laws when he operated Top Notch Towing in Van Nuys, according to the City Attorney’s office.
Kevin Gropp, the owner of the Northridge parking lot, was charged with 10 misdemeanor counts for failing to contract with a permitted tow company and 10 infractions for causing the tow of a vehicle within an hour of it being parked.