Local News

Brentwood Towing Victims, Attorney General, Speak Out

Posted May 22, 2002

— Some strong words from the Attorney General about a Raleigh towing company's business practices. Two weeks ago, we first told you about complaints that Brentwood Towing hauled away legally parked cars. Since then, we've received even more complaints... and so has the Attorney General.

Now, as 5 On Your Side's Monica Laliberte explains, he, and the people who had their cars towed, are speaking out.

Going to a pizza restaurant along Hillsborough Street in Raleigh cost John Linville an extra $50 in cash when Brentwood towed his car from a lot situated among three Raleigh businesses: the restaurant, a flower shop behind it and a Hardees restaurant at the other end.

"The signs over there say Hardees parking only. The sign here says customer parking only. We were customers... just not for the right place apparently."

It turns out, though separated from its main parking area, Hardees owns this lot too. But Linville feels the "Customers Only" sign at the entrance to the lot is deceptive... especially since all the signs in the restaurant's main lot read: Hardees customers only.

Sharon McDowell feels she too, was unfairly towed by Brentwood when she parked along a curb behind a Cary business.

"It seems like they need to clearly state which customers this applies to... I've parked right here for the past four or five years and had no problem. There aren't any "no parking" signs in this particular area. The pavement is not marked in any way."

McDowell says the tow truck driver pointed to a row of signs farther down, said they applied to the area where she parked,then demanded McDowell pay $50 in cash to get her car back.

Two weeks ago, we told you how Brentwood towed at least four cars they weren't supposed to from another business.

5 On Your Side is aware of dozens of complaints about Brentwood towing. The Attorney General's office alone has at least 25 on file.

So we followed a couple of Brentwood trucks on a recent Saturday night. We watched as they traveled through streets near the N.C. state campus. In most cases, quickly towing car after car after car.

Minutes after the owner of one vehicle parked illegally, Brentwood arrived with dimmed headlights. Since the truck driver couldn't get to the front of the car, he first towed it from the back. We watched the car lurch as he pulled it from the spot until it was far enough out that he could hook to the front.

Now, Brentwood has Attorney General Mike Easley's attention.

"We have a lot of complaints from consumers: they're being unreasonable, they're being unfair. And a lot of the things they're doing we think are illegal. That's why were talking to them right now. To tell them to straighten up or face the consequences."

Easley's investigation of Brentwood focuses on four things: Allegations that Brentwood is not following proper procedures in notifying the DMV about the cars they tow. Just last week, DMV officers paid a surprise visit to Brentwood's storage lot, checking the serial and license plate numbers of every vehicle.

"We're trying to determine if they're doing what they're supposed to do. If not, that's going to be the straw that breaks the camels back for us." Easley is also investigating complaints that Brentwood tows cars from areas where they don't have contracts.

That Brentwood tows from areas that aren't properly marked

That they do what Easley calls "predatory towing."

"If they don't make some changes. They're going to end up in court... I can promise you that!" Mr. Easley expects to have results of his investigation within a few weeks.

One of the owners of Brentwood Towing, Rick Walker, didn't want to appear on camera. He maintains he runs a legitimate business, and that if the DMV or the Attorney General finds any wrongdoing, he will correct it immediately.

As for John Linville and Sharon McDowell, the owners of the properties where they parked offered to refund their towing fees, and Brentwood is replacing the questionable signs.

Reporter:

Monica Laliberte

Photographer:

Lori Lair

Michelle Singer

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