Danny Caldwell, of 3490 Fairfax Place in Lakeland, who owns and operates Danny’s Hooking and Booking wrecker service out of his home, got hooked by PCSO deputies and booked into the Polk County Jail on 51 counts Improper Destruction of a Vehicle and 1 count Operating a Secondary Metals Business Without a License.
According to the affidavits, the investigation began approximately two weeks ago when Lance Barnes of Lakeland reported his car stolen. Detectives learned that his 1994 Buick had been towed from an apartment complex located at 151 Avenue C SE in Winter Haven by 36-year-old Danny Caldwell (DOB 6/27/73) of Danny’s Hooking and Booking, at the request of Martin Halpert. Halpert indicated to Caldwell that he was the owner of the Buick, and he authorized its towing off the property. Caldwell then towed it to Gregco Recycling in Lakeland and sold it for scrap metal. The Buick was subsequently destroyed.
Once detectives traced the Buick’s path from the apartment complex, to Gregco Recycling, back to Halpert, they learned that it is common practice for Danny Caldwell to tow junk vehicles to Gregco and sell them for scrap. They confirmed through Gregco’s records that since October 2009, Caldwell has sold at least 100 vehicles to Gregco for scrap, profiting $150 to $300 per vehicle.
Detective Matt Beebe interviewed Caldwell, who confirmed that he knew that he had to have a Secondhand Metals Recycling license in order to sell cars in mass quantities to Gregco and receive cash. He further stated that he did not obtain the proper license to operate his business because the license was too expensive. Based on this information, Caldwell was charged with 1 count Operating a Secondary Metals Business Without a License.
Detectives also located 51 pieces of paper in Caldwell’s possession proving that he has been improperly destroying vehicles: 32 applications for derelict motor vehicle certificates; 2 applications for titles; and 17 vehicle titles. None of the applications for derelict motor vehicle certificate were completed properly, nor had they been submitted to the Department of Highway Safety Motor Vehicles to obtain a derelict motor vehicle title prior to being destroyed. The vehicle titles were also not properly completed prior to vehicles being sold to and destroyed by Gregco Recycling. It is illegal to take a vehicle to a scrap yard and destroy it, and to make a profit from its destruction, without a vehicle title. Based on the paperwork obtained from Danny’s Hooking and Booking, 51 vehicles were illegally destroyed by Danny Caldwell, and he was charged with 51 counts Improper Destruction of a Vehicle.
On April 7, 2010, Danny Ray Caldwell (DOB 6/27/73) was booked into the Polk County Jail on the aforementioned charges.
Martin Halpert was charged with Grand Theft Auto after admitting to detectives that he contacted Danny’s Hooking and Booking and asked Caldwell to tow away the 1994 Buick that was left at the apartment complex property. He also admitted to signing the forms provided to him by Caldwell indicating he was the owner of the vehicle. On April 7, 2010, Martin Halpert (DOB 12/16/46) was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with 1 count Grand Theft Auto.
Gregco Recycling was not charged with violating any laws. They operated in compliance of Florida State Statutes and fully cooperated with detectives during this investigation.