Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
April 24, 2009
Susan Kang Schroeder
BUSINESS WOMAN CONVICTED ON FELONY CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT VEHICLE TAKING FOR ILLEGALLY GETTING PARKED CARS TOWED
FULLERTON – A business woman was convicted of one felony count of conspiracy to commit vehicle taking for the 20 legally parked cars she caused to be taken by unauthorized towing. Suzette Joan Diaz, 44, Westminster, was sentenced to two years of state prison, suspended pending compliance with all terms and conditions of her probation, three years of formal probation, and 80 hours of community service. In addition, she was ordered to pay restitution to the 20 victims for the fees they were forced to pay as a result of the unlawful towing. The total restitution to be paid is $4,282.
Between April 14, 2007 and May 11, 2007, Huntington Beach Police received complaints of numerous vehicles being towed from a parking lot at 401 Main Street shared by JAX bicycles, a chiropractic office, and a dry cleaner. Diaz called the police department and falsely obtained Private Property Impound authorization by posing as an agent for these businesses. Her business is located at 419 Main Street #B and has no relationship with these businesses. She called Medlin’s Towing in Westminster to tow the vehicles away under the illegally obtained PPI authorization. Medlin’s Towing, who pays their tow drivers on commission, towed and held the vehicles until the owners would pay the towing fees.
California law states that a tow truck driver does not gain legal possession of a vehicle until the vehicle is removed from private property and is in transit. Tow operators must release a vehicle to the person in lawful possession of the vehicle if they return before their vehicle is removed from private property. Generally, for a tow company to remove vehicles from private property, the private property owner or agent must be present and sign a specific authorization for the removal, with some vehicle code exceptions.
The case was investigated by Huntington Beach Police. Deputy District Attorney Susan Eckermann of the Consumer Protection Unit prosecuted this case.