(Nov. 1, 2019) Ocean City police uncovered a suspected theft and towing scheme by 1st Street Towing in Ocean City, going back as far as March 16. Charges filed last month allege that 1st Street Towing profited by thousands of dollars by illegally towing vehicles from a multi-unit property on Atlantic Avenue and the parking lot of Bank of America in mid-town Ocean City.
According to court documents, police became aware of the situation when Cynthia Mooney, president of Shore Management, reported to police on Aug. 9 that her car had been towed by the wrong company.
Shore Management organizes tow companies for its own properties, one of which was the multi-unit property on Atlantic Avenue. That property has labeled parking spaces by unit number for the owners.
Mooney told police she has tow warning signs that bear the stickers of the tow company she contracted with to perform that service: East Coast Auto Repair. She added that unit owners and agents have the right to call the company if a vehicle is incorrectly parked in the owner’s spot.
Mooney’s parked her car in another owner’s spot at the Atlantic Avenue property on Aug. 6 and the owners of that spot called the tow number listed on the sign. Problem was, court documents show, the sticker the owners saw was for 1st Street Towing, not East Coast Auto Repair. Mooney said she never gave permission to 1st Street Towing to tow cars from the property. She reported that she paid the towing fee.
Also according to court documents, police called 1st Street Towing and spoke to Robert Dunlap of Berlin, who said he placed the company’s sticker over the East Coast Auto Repair sticker just after Memorial Day with the permission of the female vice president of the board of directors of the property. Dunlap reportedly had no further information about the vice president.
He acknowledged to police that he towed several cars the same day as he towed Mooney’s. Police contacted the property’s board of directors to discover that the vice president is actually male and that nobody from the board gave 1st Street Towing permission to tow from the Atlantic Avenue property.
Grant Hangliter, who is in charge of the tow truck operations at East Coast Auto Repair, reported to police there’s an ongoing territorial dispute between all tow companies involving towing from private lots. He confirmed that the company did not give Dunlap permission to deface the sticker or to tow vehicles.
Hangliter said that every tow is valued at approximately $300. Police removed the 1st Street Towing sticker to find the East Coast Auto Repair sticker underneath. According to police, 1st Street Towing conducted four unauthorized tows from the Atlantic Avenue property.
Dunlap is charged with defacing the sticker for damages under $1,000, stealing services of a value of $905 and theft scheme under $1,500.
Police learned that private property owners can purchase a Town of Ocean City tow sign with the authorized phone number of the tow company they have an agreement with. When the owner calls to have an incorrectly parked car towed from their property, the owner must sign an affidavit and provide the document to the driver of the tow truck.
Police audited 1st Street Towing, which is owned by Maath and Rana Salem of Berlin. They employed Dunlap. Through the audit, police discovered that 1st Street Towing towed 12 vehicles in 2019 from a Bank of America lot from March 16 to Aug. 4.
Police spoke to three towing agents from Bank of America who said they never authorized the towing. The charging documents show that police found government and legal affidavits signed by Rana Jafar as an owner/agent of Bank of America. Bank of America representatives, however, told police they haf never heard of Rana Jafar.
Police reported that they spoke to Rana Salem, who told police that she was an agent for Bank of America. Co-owner Maath Salem said that Dunlap took vehicles without permission and signed his own name to them. Police presented the pair with affidavits signed with the name of “Rana Jafar,” who was determined to be Rana Salem.
The total value of the 12 towed vehicles was $181,000. 1st Street Towing profited $2,715 from towing at the Bank of America parking lot.
Dunlap and Salem are charged with six counts of unlawful taking of motor vehicles, three counts of theft scheme, two counts of theft, 12 counts of unauthorized removal of a motor vehicle, six counts of taking a vehicle without owner’s consent with the intent to deprive the owner, six counts of willful motor vehicle tampering with owner consent and 12 counts of towing and removing vehicle without authorization from the parking lot owner.
Salem was also separately charged with perjury by affidavit required by the law and government.