CHICAGO (CBS) — The general manager for Canadian hauling company was set to find out Tuesday whether he will have to pay a nearly $20,000 bill from a Chicago tow yard.
The emergency hearing will be held Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, the GM of Roadstar Trucking, Joe Smelko, said it has been like the Wild, Wild West.
Read Smelko’s Complaint:
CBS 2’s Lauren Victory talked with Smelko about what he’s doing, now that he has had enough.
After storms roared through Chicago and even brought a tornado to town last week, one of Smelko’s trucks rolled through debris.
“Thankfully, the police arrived and escorted us to our site,” he said.
The Canadian hauler was damaged, but drivable. Officers left it with the shaken, but uninjured Roadstar Trucking driver. Then, a tow truck showed up.
“Next thing you know, they’re being asked to sign something they don’t really understand,” Smelko said.
And with that, the semi was suddenly whisked away to VIP Towing at 103rd Street and Normal Avenue.
“We’re being held hostage,” Smelko said.
The ransom? $18,573.
The irony? This is Roadstar Trucking’s second $18,000 Chicago towing bill. The first came from Citywide Recovery after a November 2019 incident that looked worse than it was, according to Smelko.
“In both these cases, neither one of these tow companies were called by us,” he said.
CBS 2 made a recent house call to Citywide Recovery to ask about a California company’s $9,000 bill, which we reported on Monday. The Citywide Recovery employee provided Victory with a receipt for that rideshare company’s towing bill, but was unable to explain why his version was $5,000 cheaper than one submitted to insurance.
The same company has been cited by the city for multiple consumer fraud violations.
At VIP, a representative defended the company’s prices.
“Towing is expensive. It’s not cheap. Why do people think that towing is cheap? It’s not. Not when you do professional towing,” he said.
But for $18,000?
“Why shouldn’t it be $18,000?” the VIP representative said. “Can you tell me why it shouldn’t be $18,000?”
Well, because an international hauling business like Roadstar would know – accidents like these are common, and receipts for such sums are rare.
“This isn’t just about our company,” Smelko said. “It’s about everybody out there; the consumers in general.”
Roadstar is now trying to deter what attorneys call “future wrongdoing.” In a complaint filed against VIP Towing, lawyers included a section for punitive damages that could end up costing the lot thousands of dollars.
CBS 2 confirmed the Illinois Attorney General’s office received a separate complaint about VIP Towing earlier this week.
Allegations included extortion and were forwarded to the state’s towing regulator, the Illinois Commerce Commmission.