Monterey, CA…Monterey County District Attorney Jeannine M. Pacioni announced that the Consumer Protection Unit of the District Attorney’s Office simultaneously filed civil and criminal complaints against the primary owners and operators of two unrelated Salinas-area businesses for predatory towing practices.
The first criminal complaint was filed against Mark Gunderson for vehicle theft and extortion. The People allege in their civil complaint that Gunderson owned and operated both Hankins Towing, Inc. and Response Team Security. Response Team Security provided security services to Salinas-area homeowners associations. The People further allege that Response Team Security unlawfully initiated over one thousand tows that Hankins Towing then fulfilled, and that Response Team Security guards received bonus payment for initiating tows. The civil complaint for unfair competition relates to the same conduct as the criminal complaint and names Gunderson (as an individual and doing business as Response Team Security), Hankins Towing, Inc., and Hankins Towing’s co-owner, Thomas Hankins, as the Defendants.
The second criminal complaint was filed against Marco Damian for vehicle theft and extortion. The People allege in their civil complaint that Damian, through his business MD Towing, unlawfully towed vehicles from Salinas-area businesses’ parking lots without the required authorization from such businesses’ owners or agents. In other words, the People allege that Damian towed vehicles from lots that local businesses never asked to be towed. The civil complaint for unfair competition relates to the same conduct as the criminal complaint and names Damian (as an individual and doing business as MD Towing) as the Defendant.
These filings follow the People’s prosecution of the owners and operators of A-1 Towing, another Salinas-area tow business. See Case Numbers 19CR005287 and 19CR005291, and a related civil matter Case Number 21CV000499.
The law governing private property tows in California is set forth in Vehicle Code section 22658, and prohibits a towing company, or an affiliate of a towing company, from authorizing its own tows, except in narrowly prescribed circumstances such as when a vehicle is parked in a fire lane or is blocking the entrance or exit to the private property.
Monterey County District Attorney Jeannine M. Pacioni stated, in connection with these filings, that, “laws governing private property tows exist to protect the public, particularly low-income consumers who are disproportionately affected by predatory towing practices. Where tow operators engage in a pattern or practice of unlawful conduct, the District Attorney’s Office will prosecute.”
Vehicle owners who believe that their vehicles were unlawfully towed by either MD Towing or Hankins Towing are encouraged to contact the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office at (831) 647-7770 or email@example.com, and should provide relevant information such as: vehicle owner’s name, date and circumstances of the tow, as well as any documentation related to the tow.
Christopher J. Judge, Deputy District Attorney
Mirco J. Haag, Deputy District Attorney
People v. Mark Gunderson, Case No. 21CR004891
People v. Mark Gunderson, et al., Case No. 21CV001996
People v. Marco Damian, Case No. 21CR004890
People v. Marco Damian dba MD Towing, Case No. 21CV001995