LOS ANGELES – City Attorney Mike Feuer today announced that his office has filed a 60-count criminal complaint against the owner and operator of Valley Impound Garage (VIG), a Van Nuys towing and storage business, for alleged predatory practices against motorists parked in a Northridge lot.
“Holding vehicles ransom and charging excessive fees for their release is an outrageous and unscrupulous business practice,” said Feuer. “My office will continue to crack down on predatory businesses, hold their operators accountable, and protect Los Angeles drivers.”
Steven Garcia, Sr., 60, the owner/operator of VIG, was charged with 60 criminal counts including operating without a State motor carrier permit, towing a vehicle without making a good faith inquiry that a vehicle was parked for one hour, unlawfully taking a motor vehicle, failing to provide the vehicle owner with written notice of towing authorization, failing to provide the vehicle owner with written information where to make a complaint about the tow, charging an excessive rate for towing and storage, refusing to accept payment by credit card, and vehicle tampering.
Steven Garcia Jr., 23, a tow truck driver for VIG, was charged with two criminal counts for allegedly operating a commercial motor vehicle without proper permits.
Aaron Aguilar Cruz, 31, a tow truck driver for VIG, was charged with seven criminal counts including allegedly operating a tow truck without proper State and City permits and failing to unconditionally release a motor vehicle not yet removed from private property to the owner upon request.
In addition, Kevin Gropp, the owner of the 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.
The complaint alleges that 10 victims were unlawfully towed at the lot from September 2014 through January 2015.
Arraignment for each of the defendants is scheduled for Sept. 2, 2015 in Department 40.
In 2015, the Los Angeles Police Commission (CID) investigated a complaint alleging that VIG illegally towed a female victim’s vehicle in Sept 2014 from a parking lot located at 9241 Reseda Blvd. in Northridge. The victim alleged she parked in the lot, which abuts several small businesses to the south but serves an office building directly to the north, and went into a nearby beauty salon. Approximately 25 minutes later, the victim was alerted that her car was being towed. The victim discovered her car had been towed to another parking lot across the street, where she was allegedly given a choice of paying $120 cash to release her car on the spot or $280.00 later at the VIG tow yard in Van Nuys.