Local News

Fayetteville Tow Truck Operator Accused of Stealing Cars

Posted September 8, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT

— If a tow truck pulls up to your car, chances are you called for help. But a tow truck operator in Cumberland County is accused of using a tow truck to steal cars.

Investigators say the man has spent the last three weeks looking to steal broken-down vehicles. He says he is an honest businessman.

"I have no need to steal a car. I've been to prison, but not for stealing," says Wardell Smith.

Investigators believe Smith is a car thief. They say they caught him red-handed Wednesday morning using a friend's tow truck to steal Alan King's truck.

"I had happened to look and I had seen a wrecker backed up to my truck and he was hooking up. He had it hooked up and completely had to run him down," says King.

King says he never called a tow truck. He says his car had been broken down for only 20 minutes and he was going to fix it himself.

"I received a call from an individual named Alan King, told me to meet him on the other side of Black and Decker, that his truck had broken down," says Smith.

Smith says he was also recently called to tow three other vehicles. The owners of those vehicles also reported them stolen.

"We recovered four yesterday. And we also found six to seven more yesterday that did not come back stolen that he had towed. They very well could come back stolen," says an investigator with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.

All of the vehicles Smith is charged with stealing have not been stripped for parts or broken into.

Smith believes sheriff's deputies are harassing him because he recently got out of jail on a drug conviction. He insists he is not a thief.

"That's not true. I have no need to do that. I'm not hurting for money. I have my business cards out," says Smith.

Smith's towing service is not listed in the phone book. As far as the tow truck is concerned, investigators cannot confiscate it because it does not belong to Smith. The owner of the truck will not be charged.