TOWING COMPANY OWNER AND EMPLOYEES TO BE ARRAIGNED ON CONSPIRACY THEFT AND EXTORTION CHARGES INVOLVING PREDATORY TOWING PRACTICES

OCDASeal

Orange County District Attorney
Press Release


Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701

For Immediate Release
January 26, 2006
Contact:Susan Kang Schroeder
Deputy District Attorney
(714) 347-8408 Office
(714) 292-2718 Cell

TOWING COMPANY OWNER AND EMPLOYEES TO BE ARRAIGNED ON CONSPIRACY THEFT AND EXTORTION CHARGES INVOLVING PREDATORY TOWING PRACTICES

SANTA ANA – The owner of Adam’s Towing company in Stanton, her husband who also works for the business and their tow truck driver have been arrested on charges involving predatory towing practices.  On January 25, 2006, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office filed one count of conspiracy, four counts of unlawful taking of a vehicle, and four counts of extortion charges against these three defendants. 

The defendants are Marianne Thanhminh Lai, 36, Garden Grove, the owner of Adam’s Towing, Inc., her husband, Jaime Abel Chan Ramirez, 32, Garden Grove, who worked for her, and Jose Rodrigo Torres-Diaz, 22, Tustin, a tow truck driver working for Adam’s Towing.  Lai and Ramirez are in custody on $40,000 bail and Torres-Diaz is being held on $20,000.  The three will be arraigned at 8:30 a.m. in Department C-55, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana, on Monday, January 30, 2006.  If convicted of all charges, the defendants could receive probation to five years in state prison. 

In California, a towing company may not tow a car away from a private property unless the property owner or his or her agent is there to personally authorize and see the car being towed away.  The law prohibits a property owner from delegating this duty to any towing company or anyone affiliated with them. 

From April to November 2005, Lai, Ramirez and Torres-Diaz are accused of conspiring to violate this law.  On April 29, 2005, Ramirez acting for Adam’s Towing is accused of making an agreement with Dr. Huu Pham to patrol and tow away cars at 4463 Birch Street in Newport Beach, California.  Lai, Ramirez and Torres-Diaz are accused of towing more than 200 vehicles from this property in Newport Beach without a specific request by the property owner and without the owner present.  Ramirez is accused of arranging for and paying someone to act as a security guard for the property owner and “authorize” Adam’s Towing to tow cars from the property without having the property owner present at the time of the tow.  Adam’s Towing would later demand payment from the car owners to release cars to the owners.

A citizen whose car was towed from the Newport Beach lot called the owner of the lot and was told the owner was on vacation at the time of the tow.   The Newport Beach Police observed cars being towed from the lot without anyone present to authorize the tows.  When contacted by the police that night, Lai is accused of creating false invoices that claimed to contain the written authorization of a security guard for the tows.   

The investigation was conducted by the Newport Beach Police Department.  Deputy District Attorney Lesley Young of the Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit is prosecuting the case.  Any member of the public victimized by these predatory practices should contact District Attorney Investigator Frank Cardenas at 714-347-8711. 

###