Friday, March 7, 2014
Two members of a prominent South Portland family who own a towing business have been indicted on perjury charges stemming from a dispute over towing fees and a complaint they filed against a police officer, saying he lied about them.
Robert and Vincent Maietta, who own Maietta Towing Co. in Scarborough, were indicted in connection with statements they made at a hearing this spring into allegations that the company charged a vehicle owner more than allowed under the city ordinance, said South Portland Detective
Sgt. Steve Webster.
That hearing led to a broader investigation into towing fees. Information from that investigation was given to Cumberland County’s district attorney, who presented it to the grand jury, Webster said.
The hearing was prompted by an incident March 1, when Maietta Towing charged Alex Anastasoff $1,425 to tow his car from the scene of a crash in the city. City ordinance permitted the company to charge no more than $190, according to a decision issued by City Clerk Susan Mooney.
The brothers blamed the overcharge on a company employee.
A message left for Anastasoff at his business was not returned Wednesday afternoon.
Mooney asked police to look into whether the overcharge was part of a pattern. Sgt. Todd Barlow investigated and said at the City Hall hearing in April that he found four other instances in the previous 45 days in which Maietta Towing overcharged customers a total of $1,060 for city-initiated tows that should have cost $75 to $195 each, according to the clerk’s decision.
The towing company then filed a complaint against Barlow. An internal police investigation into the complaint led to a criminal investigation into statements the Maiettas made under oath during the
hearing, Webster said.
“It’s not the police out to get the Maiettas,” Webster said. “One thing
happened and it snowballed into a larger investigation.”
The Maiettas’ attorney, Daniel Lilley, suggested otherwise.
“The Maiettas heard Officer Barlow testify and they were horrified because it was, in their view, false testimony about what had happened,” Lilley said. “It appeared to be an effort by the police officer to pile on ... so the suspension is longer and fine greater.
“They filed a formal complaint with Chief Edward Googins that Officer Barlow perjured himself and lied under oath, and lo and behold, they were indicted for the same thing they were accusing him of,” Lilley
said. “There appears to be some retaliation here.”
Webster said there is no vendetta against the Maiettas.
“There was no rush to judgment,” he said. “At a certain point it’s out of our hands. Our job is to gather facts.”
As a result of Barlow’s findings, Maietta Towing was suspended from the city’s towing list for five months and fined $100. The city uses the list to have vehicles towed after accidents or arrests.
None of Maietta Towing’s other towing business is affected. The company had offered to refund Anastasoff’s charge.
In response to Barlow’s findings, the police researched other companies’ tow charges from Jan. 1 and April 11 and suspended two of them, InTown Towing and S&R Towing, for two months and fined them $100 each.
Police found that, on seven occasions, the companies, both owned by ARCEE LLC, charged customers roughly three times the amount allowed under city ordinance for involuntary tows.
One of the owners of ARCEE, Curtis Gleason, said during a hearing May 30 that he worked for the previous owner of the company for two years before he bought the business a year and a half ago. He said he continued to charge what his previous boss had charged.
However, Chief Googins said at the hearing that he had called Gleason a few months earlier to say that the city had been charged slightly too much for towing, and that the cost for a daytime tow was $65 versus $75 for a tow at night.
The clerk noted that that should have alerted Gleason to the city’s ordinance regulating prices.
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: