2 accused of illegal towing

Lauren Vane

An employee of a Westminster towing company was arrested after an

investigation by Huntington Beach police alleged that the company had

illegally towed vehicles from private properties in Huntington Beach,

police said.

Mark Alan Mathis, 45, of Westminster, the night supervisor at

Medlin's Towing, allegedly conspired with his friend, Sean Edwin

Hyepock, 36, also of Westminster, to tow cars from private properties

without property owners' permission, pulling in extra dollars in tow

and storage fees.

A court ruling in May sided with a state law that prohibits towing

companies from patrolling private properties for illegally parked

vehicles and towing them without property-owner permission.

Investigators said that Mathis and Hyepock would allegedly patrol

private parking lots in the area and look for illegally parked

vehicles. Hyepock would pose as the property manager and authorize

the towing of the vehicle, police said.

The police department's community unit discovered that Medlin's

Towing had illegally towed five cars in the early part of June 2005.

Officers conducted a search at Medlin's Towing on July 7.

Police said that none of the property owners had authorized the

towing, and that the towing company may have also illegally towed

vehicles from other Orange County cities, police said.

Phone calls to Medlin's Towing were not returned.

According to state law, in order to tow vehicles from private

property, the property owner must have restricted parking signs

posted and must authorize the tow.

The recent change in the law has hurt some towing companies who

rely heavily on income from towing cars off private property, said

Bob Mandic, owner of Mandic Motors, a tow yard that contracts with

the city of Huntington Beach.

Mandic Motors is not one of those towing companies, and has always

had a policy against patrolling private complexes for illegally

parked cars, Mandic said.

"Companies grew on that policy of patrolling; that's their sole

source of business, and I don't think that's what a tow company is

supposed to be," Mandic said.

Towing fees are expensive -- Mandic charges $123 for the initial

tow and $29 per day after the first 24 hours -- and a burden for the

vehicle owner, Mandic said.

"It's quite an imposition on the vehicle owner," Mandic said.

The high cost of towing combined with storage fees is what Mathis

and Hyepock were after, police said.

Mathis and Hyepock were booked at the Huntington Beach City Jail

on charges of conspiracy and the unlawful taking of vehicles.

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