Towing Operators Scrapping Cars for Cash

Police said older model cars are being illegally towed and scrapped for cash.

Walter Artiles is one of the latest victims. 

"I call this van Bertha, the green machine," Artiles said.

Artiles says he feels a little silly choking up over a car, but his 1978 Ford van was like part of his family. It was lovingly restored over many hours, over several years.

Artiles admits he foolishly parked the van in front of a warehouse in his neighborhood on Tabor Road because it was convenient. 

He ignored towing signs and on June 26, the van disappeared.

Artiles said police told him that Manton Towing had the vehicle, but the towing company denied it.

Artiles searched for the van on his own and finally found a clue at Poor Boys Scrap Yard
in Northeast Philadelphia.

A police detective said surveillance video at Poor Boys Scrap Yard shows Manton Towing employee Curtis Smith and another Manton driver bringing Artiles' car to the yard.

It was scrapped for $600 in cash.

"They got greedy," Artiles said.

A manager at Manton Towing said Smith was just a passenger in the tow truck.

An NBC 10 investigation showed that Smith pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property in 2000.

The manager admitted the towing company has had problems. In September, a police memo said another Manton driver was arrested on charges that he illegally destroyed a car and sold it for scrap metal. 

That charge was eventually dropped.

But there were so many other issues that in March, Philadelphia Police Sgt. Dorreen Dean asked the License and Inspection Department to help in ceasing the operations of Manton because "their methods of operation flagrantly disregard the Pennsylvania vehicle code."

Manton Towing was forced to shut down for 38 days, but received a renewed license to operate in April.

The law states that once a towing company moves a car, it is required to contact the owner and allow them 15 days to reclaim it. 

But police said with scrap metal prices going up, more cars are being improperly junked.

The city controller said as a result of the NBC 10 investigation, he is having the entire towing process and licensing of towing companies reviewed.  

The manager of Manton Towing said the company is registered with the state, but NBC 10 found no record of a Pennsylvania Business License.

The Attorney General's office said that would be a violation of the Consumer Protection Law. 

Artiles said he hopes he'll be compensated for his loss, but he feels his van was priceless.

"I would have paid $1,000 to get the vehicle back," he said.

To file a complaint about a towing company call Licenses and Inspections at 215-686-2463.

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