DETROIT (FOX 2) - A Detroit towing company that's notorious in Midtown is out of business. But are they really gone?
Fox 2's Rob Wolchek found out, they haven't entirely disappeared.
Breakthrough Towing is gone from Mid-Town Liquor. They are gone from the mid-town McDonalds. But with the stroke of his magic wand, the guy behind Breakthrough Towing has conjured up a new company.
Magic Towing isn't Breakthrough Towing. According to their lawyer, "Magic Towing is a separate entity from any companies that my client may have had affiliation with. "
It's not like presto-chango, one company with lots of complaints vanished. And abracabra, another company magically appeared.
Rob Wolchek: "So you never even heard of Magic Towing?"
"No I did not," said Sam, a Magic Towing victim.
Wolchek: "So the guy calls you and says I'm Mike Jones I'm the owner of Magic Towing?"
"Yes," said Kenny, a Magic Towing victim.
C'mon, these Magic men wouldn't try to trick you now would they?
"Mike Jones from Magic Towing. The number was 313 ..."
Wolchek: "That's Mike Dickerson's personal cell."
Mike Dickerson. He's the guy who ran Breakthrough Towing.
In October, I showed you how day after day, we watched as Breakthrough Towing nabbed cars out of the Mid-Town Liquor store parking lot.
Even though their attorney told us, the company doesn't use spotters, we saw the same characters, constantly snapping photos of license plates. And like Magic, a tow truck would show up and tow vehicles belonging to people who stepped out of the parking lot.
We showed you people begging them to drop their cars but the tow drivers wouldn't. Instead, they ended up having to go to the Breakthrough office to pay $395.00 in cash to get their cars back.
I introduced you to two ladies in February who had their cars towed out of the Midtown McDonald's lot even though they claimed to be customers. They sued and won but Mike Dickerson and Breakthrough Towing didn't pay them back.
Then there was an 87-year old lady who says she got towed while she was inside the McDonald's drinking coffee. She had to walk in the winter to catch a bus because she didn't have a cell phone or $400.00 in cash to get her car back.
That's in the past. The Breakthrough signs are gone - but there's a new tow company in town, which I told you their lawyer says is a separate entity from Breakthrough.
Let's see how they're doing.
Wolchek: "You were just stuck on the ice?"
Kenny: "I was just stuck."
On March 10th, Kenny got his brand new Mustang stuck on an icy road. He called his insurance company's roadside assistance service. They sent out a tow truck.
"It was Magic Towing," said Kenny Hayes.
But things went terribly wrong.
"He just slid right into me. I was scared. I was in the car," he said. Ken had to call a different towing company to clean up mess.
Chris showed up with his tow truck.
"I went up to the driver and went, what happened? And he goes, I don't know. I just hit him," said Chris Chambers.
After Chris pried the tow truck off Ken's car, a guy claiming to be the owner of Magic Towing called and said he'd make things right.
Wolchek: "So who was the owner do you remember?"
"Mike Jones," he said.
Mike Jones. Who just so happens to have the same phone number as Mike Dickerson. The guy from Breakthrough Towing.
This guy didn't want us to use his real name so we'll call him Sam. This is Sam's white Mazda on the back of a Magic Towing truck.
Here's Sam's Mazda being dumped off at the same lot Breakthrough Towing unloads their cars. Sam says his car was towed from this shopping center parking lot near Wayne State on March 6th.
He says he bought something from the store but left his car in the lot when he went with friends to run some other errands.
Wolchek: "You realized your car was towed and then you saw on the signs Breakthrough Towing?"
"Yes," he said.
Wolchek: "So you assumed Breakthrough Towing took your car?"
"Yes," he said.
Wolchek: "And they did take your car?"
"Yes they did," he said.
Wolchek: "But actually it was on the back of a truck that said Magic Towing on it, you didn't even know that?"
"No I didn't," Sam said.
That's right. The signs in the lot say their tow company is Breakthrough Towing. Sam says he paid $395.00 to get his car back at the Breakthrough Towing office
What's going on?
This is Michigan State Police Inspector Randy Coplin. He's the assistant commander of the commercial vehicle enforcement division. He says Breakthrough Towing doesn't have a license to tow.
On Feb. 7th, the state police sent an email to Breakthrough Towing, saying it's certificate of authority expired at the end of 2018, was not renewed, so Breakthrough's authority to tow was revoked as of January 1, 2019.
Breakthrough's attorney Ryan Hill told us that's no big deal because they can still tow as long as the application for renewal is pending.
State police have a different take.
"You need to have authority to conduct business," Coplin said.
And, he says the company informed the state police they were out of business.
Here's a letter he sent them at the end of February: "On Feb. 13th, 2019 you advised Sgt. Hogan that Breakthrough Towing was out of business. And that if Breakthrough is found operating without authority the vehicles are subject to being impounded."
As for the new company, Magic Towing, he says these guys aren't supposed to be towing either!
On Feb. 27th he wrote to Magic Towing, and confirmed the state was reviewing Magic Towing's LLC application for authority but made it clear that "Magic is prohibited from operating its vehicles until its application has been approved."
These companies are different but they sure seem to have a lot of similarities. See that license plate on this Magic Towing truck? Secretary of State records show it's registered to Breakthrough Towing.
Wolchek: "Can you comment any on Breakthrough Towing?"
"No," Coplin said. "We have an active investigation and I do not have any details to release at this time."
Oh boy, and investigation? Time for me to do some investigating myself.
One day last week we watched the shopping center where Sam's car was towed from, one morning. There's the lady in the green car, the same car we saw before. Why do I have a feeling a tow truck's going to show up soon?
There it is. Magic Towing. But remember, the signs say Breakthrough Towing from this lot. The driver wants this pick-up truck and it was time for me to magically appear.
Wolchek: "It says this lot is supposed to be serviced by Breakthrough Towing. Your truck says Magic Towing. Are you Magic Towing or Breakthrough?"
The driver doesn't like my prestidigitation, so he gets on the phone and I guess, gets orders to bail out on this tow. He lets the car off the hook.
Wolchek: "I'm just trying to find out what's going on here because the lot says Breakthrough, but your truck says Magic and I got some paperwork here that says both of these are ..."
"Man that (expletive) crazy," he said.
Wolchek: "What's that?"
"That (expletive) is crazy. I don't know what's going on."
Like a magician, he vanishes. A few minutes later we see Mike Dickerson's white SUV cruising by us. Mike even pulls up to our vehicle and drives off.
Wolchek: "Talk to me man. Talk to me!"
After lurking around us for a while, I call him on the phone.
"Mike, it's Rob Wolchek. Why don't you come back and do an interview with me? Fill me in with what's going on?"
Mike says to meet him at the Breakthrough office, he wants to talk, so we start heading that way. But wait a minute, maybe this is a trick to get us away from that parking lot. Let's head back.
Sure enough. There's the guy in the truck labeled Magic Towing guy, nabbing the truck we stopped him from getting a half hour earlier.
I call Mike and tell him we came back and the Magic guy was towing the vehicle. Mike tells me: "Go ahead and get the video" and meet him at the office.
So here we are at the Breakthrough office. Mike Dickerson says he's going to do an interview with us, he's not there. I just called him, got his voice mail, but he claims he's going to do an interview with me, so let's see.
Of course, Dickerson dashed. It may seem like Magic, but it's just smoke and mirrors.
Ryan Hill, the attorney representing Mike Dickerson says the state is picking on his client, adding additional requirements to keep them from getting their license.
He even says the only reason the state is picking on his client is because we did a bunch of stories. Hill claims the company is in full compliance with all state regulations and the state is clearly discriminating against his client by not granting the authority to operate.
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But if they still don't have the authority to operate why are they still towing?
Good question: It might just come down to the right police officer, being in the right place, at the right time, to catch them.