A Massachusetts tow truck driver pleaded not guilty to charges of larceny of a motor vehicle after allegedly taking cars without permission.
Joe Lewis is the owner-operator of All Over Towing in Weymouth. He tows from private lots across Boston's South Shore. Drivers have lodged complaints with the state's Department of Public Utilities, the Attorney General's Office, the Better Business Bureau and Quincy Police, saying Lewis is aggressive and rude and calling his towing practices predatory.
The Weymouth man pleaded not guilty to stealing a black Honda Civic from President's Plaza in Quincy on July 3. According to the police report, when officers confronted him, "Lewis was adamant that he did nothing wrong," saying a customer "by the name of Tom" had called for the tow because the car had broken down. When police called Tom, they say Tom told them "he did not instruct Mr. Lewis to tow" his car from that lot. In fact, he told them, his car was never in that strip mall that day.
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But police already knew that, because the Honda he took was actually an undercover vehicle belonging to Quincy Police.
The NBC10 Boston Investigators asked Lewis if he wanted to respond to the charges before and after court, but he told us, "No comment," both times.
Police tell the NBC10 Boston Investigators the criminal case against Lewis is ongoing. They say he towed nearly 100 cars from private lots he wasn’t authorized to take by the businesses he towed from.
He's also accused of towing at least four vehicles in Quincy after his license tow had been revoked by the state for unresolved consumer complaints for price-gouging and predatory practices.
"If they're paying over what the state allows the tow company to charge, and he's essentially holding the car against the person's will, it could be considered extortion," said Quincy Police Chief Paul Keenan.
Coincidentally, while we were at court, Lewis was charged with extortion in a separate towing case. He'll be arraigned on those charges next month.
In the Quincy Police case, a judge ordered he be released on personal recognizance pending a pre-trial hearing. Because he appealed to the DPU to keep his towing license, he is allowed to continue to perform trespass tows until the state holds a licensing hearing. Prosecutors insisted the judge bar him from towing in the city of Quincy, however, as a condition of his release.