Dispute over impounds racks up fees

DETROIT (AP) - More than 1,000 vehicles impounded by Detroit police as evidence have been sitting in a lot racking up huge storage fees as city attorneys dispute with the site's owner over who is responsible for them.

City attorneys allege in court filings that Detroit companies Gene's Towing and The Realty Company are "holding (the) evidence vehicles hostage" until victims pay fees to retrieve them, the Detroit News reported .

Lawyers representing the two companies say the city saddled the property owner with the vehicles without having records for many of them.

Detroit officials had leased the lot to store the impounded vehicles until last year. Cars, trucks, minivans and SUVs still sit unattended, while many crime victims have been unable to reclaim their vehicles.

Natalya Wallace, 28, said she went months without a ride after her Ford Escape was impounded in August. Her fiance, Kelvin Martin, was shot in the head while sitting in their car in what police called a case of mistaken identity.

"I was pregnant, and when Kelvin was shot, the bullet went in his head and came out through his right jaw, and his mouth was wired shut," Wallace said. "Neither one of us could make it to the doctor's because they took our car, and we didn't have enough money for bus fare because we couldn't get to work without a ride."

Wallace finally got her car back in November as part of a settlement between the city and the lot owner.

The impounded vehicles dispute is one of several ongoing fights between the city and towing titan Gasper Fiore. The city said Fiore owns the land where the vehicles are stored, as well as Gene's Towing.

The lot property is registered to The Realty Company, whose listed agent is Fiore's ex-wife. Meanwhile, Gene's Towing has listed its owner as Paul Ott, who swore in an affidavit last year that Fiore hasn't had an interest in the company.

Fiore pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges last year.

Attorneys for Gene's Towing and the city declined to comment.

Published: Fri, Jun 29, 2018