CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An aggressive Charlotte towing company, accused of towing truckers hauling food, water, and Clorox supplies, and demanding thousands of dollars to get their trucks back, hired a man arrested last year for predatory towing, a FOX 46 investigation uncovered.
“I think it’s extortion,” said Leander Richmond, with the Michigan-based trucking company, Eagle Express.
Last August his truck was booted at an empty lot located at 6533 Freedom Drive. Willie Miller, 33, with PCR Recovery was arrested, according to police, because he put up towing signs without permission from the lot’s owner.
In other words, he had no authority to boot or tow anyone.
“That’ll be $6,000 to get your truck back, sir,” an employee, identified as Miller by Richmond, is heard saying in an audio recorded phone call provided to FOX 46.
“That’s more than it costs to replace an engine, you realize that?,” responded an Eagle Express employee.
Richmond ended up paying $2,500 to have the boot removed from his truck. He never received a refund and is not surprised to hear about truckers being booted and towed in the middle of a pandemic.
“What do you expect from a crook?” said Richmond. “You don’t expect anything ethical do you?”
Miller now works for A 1 Towing Solutions as a driver, the company confirmed. Since 2018, he has been arrested and charged with obtaining property by false pretense, identity theft, and violating parole.
“What he did before us I have no control over that. You’re trying to put people down,” said a man who answered the phone at A 1 Towing Solutions but has repeatedly refused to give his name to FOX 46. “Because he has a rap sheet, that’s something I shouldn’t give him a job for?”
Attorney General Josh Stein is investigating five towing-related complaints made by truckers, including against A 1 Towing Solutions. The complaints all are in Charlotte.
FOX 46 previously reported on several complaints against A 1 Towing Solutions, including a company who says they were contracted by FEMA to haul water, and another company hauling meat. Both say they were towed from the Home Depot on Albermarle Road even though they had permission from a store manager to be there.
The companies had to pay $4,000 each to get their trucks back.
“For months now, we’ve been posting notices on trucks and had signage in the lot in accordance with local ordinance, which we recently updated,” said Home Depot spokesperson Christina Cornell. “We regularly work with FEMA during disasters and have not received any special requests, so we were not aware of any trucks that were carrying relief supplies.”
After talking with FOX 46, Cornell says Home Depot will “look into this more.”
“I was on my way to pick up a load of meat to take to a grocery store in DC and I explained that to him,” said LaJuan Monroe with GTS Transportation. “And he was like, ‘Well if you don’t come up with $4,000 you’re not going to pick up anything.’”
“Nobody’s running a scam on nobody,” a man at A 1 Towing Solutions said, insisting its prices are consistent and its warning signs clear.
The man says he is not worried about a state investigation into his company.
“Investigate me for what?” the man said. “Our price has been the same since day one.”
He says he has no sympathy for truckers who ignored warning signs.
“Sympathy for what?” the man said. “Because he was delivering Clorox? Man, listen, y’all full of it.”
A 1 Towing Solutions said Walmart on Wilkinson Boulevard severed ties with them but wouldn’t say why. Walmart did not respond to a request for comment.
Truckers like Monroe say when they lose their trucks it isn’t just costing them money, it’s causing them to miss critical deliveries at a time when people are hurting.
“I just don’t understand why they’d want to take advantage of truckers at a time like this,” said Monroe.
A 1 Towing Solutions is not related to A 1 Towing & Recovery. Both companies are based in Charlotte. The owner of A 1 Towing & Recovery calls his competitor’s practices “predatory.”