Phoney car-tow scheme

BOB'S Auto Spares and Auto Salvage of 25 Church Street, Mayfair, Johannesburg, is accused of conniving with unlicensed towing companies to "steal" the cars of accident victims.

BOB'S Auto Spares and Auto Salvage of 25 Church Street, Mayfair, Johannesburg, is accused of conniving with unlicensed towing companies to "steal" the cars of accident victims.

Thomas Valentine, owner of the company, unwittingly told Consumer Line that he accepted wrecked vehicles from a number of unregistered tow-truck companies in exchange for a fee.

He said he would continue accepting them because he saw nothing wrong in so doing.

He said he paid R3000 for an uninsured vehicle and R4000 for an insured one.

Valentine also said he owned a salvage yard where consumers could buy rebuildable and repairable cars.

Consumer Line discovered the operation while investigating a complaint by Mbali Maseko, who was involved in an accident in August.

Maseko said before she knew what was happening, she was talking to a tow truck driver who was one of the first to arrive.

She said she insisted that the car could only be towed away after the insurer, Auto and General, had authorised it.

"I wanted to call Auto and General but Justine, the truck driver from 1 Recovery, offered to call our insurer from his phone.

"He pretended to call Auto and General and spoke to Graham, who gave an him authorisation number," Maseko said.

What she did not know was that she was talking to a fake company, she said.

It was only after the tow operator had left and on enquiring that Auto and General said they had not authorised the tow.

Police could not help because the tow operator had removed the car under false pretences.

Metro cops

She said three Metro police officers on duty at the police station said they had had two similar complaints about the same tow truck operator that night.

The car was not towed to Central Storage Depot but to Bob's Auto Salvage, she said.

A day later Thomas from the towing company called to say they had the car and demanded R5000 to release it.

"The problem is that Auto and General will not collect the car because they had not authorised the towing," said Maseko.

"I don't have that kind of money to pay the operator. At issue is the tow operator's removal of the Honda under false pretences, which amounts to stealing the car."

Consumer Line took up the matter with Valentine, who said he saw nothing untoward in the manner in which the car came to him.

"In fact, a number of tow truck companies bring cars to my yard at about 1am and collect a pay ticket from the guard for the work done. I then pay them R3000 for an uninsured vehicle and R4000 for an insured one," Valentine said.

Threatened

He said in most cases the insurance companies paid without qualms. He was not in cahoots with tow truck companies and did not even know who they were.

"I don't have their phone numbers or their addresses.

"I don't even know who they are but pay what is due to them," he said, before threatening Sowetan with legal action if we publish Maseko's story.

Not registered

The tow truck driver who towed Maseko's vehicle gave her a tow slip with 24-Hour Towing written on it without the phone number or physical address of the company.

The phone number was that of Central Storage.

The towing company is not registered with the South African Towing and Recovery Association of South Africa.

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