DA: Philadelphia towing company Hooked Inc. scammed drivers through deceptive practices

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- District Attorney Larry Krasner has announced charges against a Philadelphia towing company that allegedly scammed drivers through deceptive practices.

In a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Krasner said Joseph Moreno and Dwight Williams, the co-owners of towing company Hooked Inc, have been charged with corrupt organization, deceptive business practices, insurance fraud, theft by deception and conspiracy.

Moreno and Williams are accused of gouging insurance companies and vehicle owners with unfair towing and storage rates.

"Hooked Inc., Dwight Williams and Joseph Moreno took advantage of dozens of vulnerable drivers," said Krasner.

Both men voluntarily turned themselves in and were arrested on March 19.

"Ultimately this is a story about greed," said Krasner. "These scams have no place in our city."

An Action News Investigation in 2017 first revealed the grand jury probe.

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Chad Pradelli reports on an agressive towing investigation that sources say is underway in Philadelphia.

We found crash after crash where tow companies were responding to accident scenes even before police arrived, and bypassing a rotational system the police department put in place to prevent towing issues.

Police are supposed to assign a tow company. Once a hook is completed, that company goes to the bottom of the list. But Action News found tow companies and responding officers not following protocol.
Our investigation also found insurance companies were allegedly being overcharged. NJM Insurance Group told Action News at the time, it found 82 cases where customers were overcharged by roughly $90,000 since 2014.

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District Attorney Larry Krasner has announced charges in connection with an 18-month grand jury investigation into illegal activity by Philadelphia tow truck operators on April 10, 2019.

The grand jury, in this case, has expired, but sources tell Action News that the investigation is ongoing, and more charges are expected.

In the case involving Hooked Inc., Krasner says they began investigating after receiving high tow complaint calls.

Industry standard for the pricing of a tow should be between $200 to $400. Krasner says customers who were allegedly invovled with Hooked Inc. were charged roughly $1,000 to $2,500 for towing.

In one example, Krasner says a victim was involved in a car accident in the Roxborough section of the city and did not call for a tow. While in an ambulance, a tow operator allegedly approached this driver and said she had to sign the tow slip to remove the car from the road. Despite there not being charges listed on the back of the tow slip and feeling pressured, her husband signed the form because the tower said that insurance would pay for the towing charges.

Krasner says Hooked Inc. then billed Allstate insurance $1,221.25 for one day of storage, $300 for the tow, $11.25 per mile, $80 adminstration fee, $350 fee in unspecified labor, $175 for a winch , $45 a day for storage and 22.5% tax.

"I hope today's announcement sends a clear message to area towing operations to follow the law because these scams have no place in our city," Krasner said.

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Philly DA to announce charges against local towing company. Chad Pradelli has more on Action News at 11 p.m. on April 9, 2019.

William Brennan, an attorney for Hooked Inc, issued the following statement:

"We challenge each and every one of these allegations because some of these statutorily regulated fees were set in the Eisenhower administration."

Brennan says the only thing his clients did is try to provide honest and speedy service.

Both men have another court date scheduled at the end of April.

After accidents the Philadelphia Police Department has vowed to start enforcing the tow truck driving rotation.

The DA's office says people need to know after an accident you do not need to agree to have your car towed by anyone until police arrive.
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