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PCSO News Release

Media Contact:
Eleazer, Carrie

Public Information Officer 
News Date: 12/4/2015 

 Lakeland Business Owners of Hunter's Transportation and Towing Arrested for Violating County Ordinance, 137 Total Charges 


On Friday, December 4, 2015, PCSO detectives served search warrants and arrested a Lakeland couple, who own and manage Hunter's Transportation and Towing, after a 6-month-long investigation revealed they have been overcharging and defrauding nonconsensual tow customers. 

According to their affidavits, 41-year-old Eric Mahoney and his live-in girlfriend and business partner 38-year-old Laura Vincent, of 1038 Burrisridge Drive in Lakeland, have been overcharging customers who had their vehicles towed after a traffic crash or a law enforcement investigation. Hunter's Transportation and Towing was on the Polk County rotational wrecker list and was called when vehicles needed to be removed from a scene.  

"At a time when someone is having one of their worst days - for example, they've had a traffic crash - these two shysters were taking advantage of them. And if they weren't overbilling citizens, they were overbilling insurance companies. It's not only unethical, it's illegal - and it is one more example of how criminal activity drives up prices and rates for everyone else." - Sheriff Grady Judd  

Polk County Ordinance 13-059 regulates nonconsensual towing services for class A, B, C, and D vehicles, and designates maximum charges and fees that towing companies can assess, to protect consumers. For example, according to the ordinance, for a class A vehicle (weight up to 10,000 pounds or up to 18 feet in length), the maximum charges a tow company can charge nonconsensual customers are: a one-time removal charge of $125.00; a service charge of $120.00; a storage charge of $25.00; or a per mile charge of $5.00 or waiting charge of $25.00. The rates differ for class B, C, and D vehicles, and are also outlined in the ordinance.  

In June 2015, PCSO received information that Hunter's Towing was charging nonconsensual tow customers more than the allowable maximum charges set forth by the ordinance. PCSO detectives conducted an audit of the number of times Hunter's Towing was called to tow vehicles from November 2014 to June 2015, and found Hunter's Towing was called to scenes on 84 separate occasions. Of those 84 occasions, PCSO detectives were able to recover receipts from 34 different incidents, and conduct an audit of the charges in those case. In all 34 cases, the customers were blatantly overcharged.

In July 2015, Hunter's Towing was removed from the Polk County tow service rotation list while detectives continued their investigation. 

In the 34 cases, an average of $284.50 was overbilled per customer, or an overcharge of 39%. The total amount of overcharges for the 34 cases is $9,673.00. The one line item overcharged the most was for "crash wrap" which refers to when the tow service wraps the vehicle after towing it, so it is not exposed to the elements. On average, customers were charged nearly 7 times the maximum allowed fee for crash wrap. The other most common services overcharged by Hunter's were admin fees, clean-up fees, wait time fees, and extra worker fees. The ordinance specifically prohibits tow companies from charging an extra worker or a wait time fee for nonconsensual tows. 

Here are more examples:

  • February 7, 2015 - Hunter's towed a Mercedes from a crash scene - the victim was charged $882.75; per the ordinance the victim should have been charged $482.50; the overcharge totaled $400.25.
  • February 17, 2015 - Hunter's towed an Econoline van from a crash scene - the victim was charged $768.75; per the ordinance the victim should have been charged $343.50; the overcharge totaled $425.25.
  • March 14, 2015 - Hunter's towed a Honda from a crash scene - the victim was charged $2,150.70; per the ordinance the victim should have been charged $1,350.00; the overcharge totaled $800.70.
  • April 17, 2015 - Hunter's towed a Dodge from a crash scene - the victim was charged $1,166.30; per the ordinance the victim should have been charged $577.75; the overcharge totaled $588.55.

Additionally, Mahoney collected a total of $1063.00 in state taxes from those customers, and based on state tax rates should only have collected a total of $511.00. Of the $1063.00 he collected in state taxes, Mahoney only paid the state $199.00, and kept the remaining $864.00.  

In the 34 cases, so far detectives have identified 16 victims: 4 people and 12 insurance companies. The following local insurance companies were identified as victims:

  • Geico
  • Progressive
  • Infinity
  • State Farm
  • Farmers
  • Travelers Indemnity

PCSO detectives believe customers were overcharged in all 84 occasions where Hunter's responded to Polk County calls, and the investigation is ongoing to gather evidence and identify victims in the remaining 50 cases.

On December 2, 2015, PCSO detectives obtained search warrants for Mahoney and Vincent's home, and the business, which is located at 1620 South Combee Road in Lakeland, and arrest warrants for both suspects.  

On Friday, December 4, 2015, both suspects were taken into custody without incident, and charged with the following: 

Eric Mahoney:

  • 1 count Fraudulent Insurance Claim (F-3) - assigned $5,000 bond
  • 1 count Fraudulent Claim of Tax Exemption (F-3) - assigned $5,000 bond
  • 1 count Scheme to Defraud (F-3) - assigned $10,000 bond
  • 7 counts Felony Petit Theft (F-3) - assigned $5,000 bond each (total $35,000)
  • 8 counts Grand Theft (F-3) - assigned $5,000 bond each (total $40,000)
  • 119 counts Violation of Nonconsensual Towing Services Ordinance (M-2) - assigned $250 bond each (total $29,750)
  • TOTAL BOND AMOUNT: $124,750

Eric Mahoney's criminal history includes 35 prior felony convictions and 13 prior misdemeanor convictions, and the following arrests:

  • August 1996 - arrested for Resisting Arrest
  • April 2001 - arrested for Larceny
  • June 2001 - arrested for Fraud, False Insurance Claim, Grand Theft
  • August 2002 - arrested for VOP (Fraud)
  • January 2005 - arrested for 19 counts Attempt to Use ID of Another, 1 count Fraudulent Use of Personal ID
  • April 2008 - arrested for VOP (Fraud)
  • June 2009 - arrested for Dispose of Personal Property Under Lien

Laura Vincent (no criminal history) during this investigation so far is being charged with:

  • 1 count Fraudulent Insurance Claim (F-3) - assigned $5,000 bond
  • 1 count Fraudulent Claim of Tax Exemption (F-3) - assigned $5,000 bond
  • 1 count Scheme to Defraud (F-3) - assigned $10,000 bond
  • 7 counts Petit Theft (F-3) - assigned $500 bond each (total $3500)
  • 8 counts Grand Theft (F-3) - assigned $5,000 bond each (total $40,000)
  • 119 counts Violation of Nonconsensual Towing Services Ordinance (M-2) - assigned $250 bond each (total $29,750)
  • TOTAL BOND AMOUNT: $93,250

During the search warrant, detectives seized two tow trucks from the business. Both suspects have been placed on a Nebbia Hold (funds used for bonding out of jail must be proven to not have been obtained through criminal enterprise). Further charges are pending the outcome of the search warrants and identification of more victims. 

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and the Florida Department of Insurance both assisted PCSO during this investigation. 

Please note: The business is listed in Laura Vincent's name as the owner; Mahoney is listed in business paperwork as the manager. No other employees of the business are implicated in these crimes and have cooperated fully with law enforcement. Polk County Ordinance 13-059 sets maximum fees for nonconsensual tows only. Tow companies may set their own fees when conducting consensual business with customers. The investigation is ongoing