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,
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.