Crime - Sacto 911

Suspects arraigned in Sacramento 'predatory' towing scheme

The owners of a Sacramento towing firm accused of netting hundreds of cars and thousands of dollars in an illegal towing scheme near Sleep Train Arena were arraigned Monday on 30 counts of conspiracy and auto theft.

Sacramento County prosecutors say Davis Tow Inc.’s operation was a “predatory tow conspiracy” that targeted vehicles parked during Sacramento Kings basketball games in winter and spring 2016. Additional charges could be filed, prosecutors said Monday.

A two-year probe by California Highway Patrol investigators led to the March 15 arrest of owner Scott Gordon Davis, 54, of Placerville, Christopher Gerald Davis, 46, of Antelope, and 50-year-old Leslie James McKenzie, of Chico, along with employees Robert Harless, 30, of Homewood, and Erik Steven Dyer, 37, of Elverta.

Each was charged with 29 counts of auto theft and a count each of conspiracy to commit a crime. Sacramento Superior Court judge Patrick Marlette ordered all five to return to court April 11.

Prosecutors allege the company pulled off an “orchestrated impound program” dragging cars and trucks from lots near the arena, charging their unwitting customers impound fees, and selling the vehicles from under their owners at lien sales if they didn’t cough up the cash to get their cars out of impound.

Davis Tow’s alleged take: 270 cars and $80,000 to $90,000 in impound fees.

The company’s tow trucks have since been seized.

A squad of attorneys crowded around the courtroom cell that held the five men for the Monday arraignment. Dyer's defense attorney Michael Wise and McKenzie’s counsel, William Portanova, asked Marlette to reduce bail citing their clients’ lack of a criminal record, community ties, and in McKenzie’s case, a freak accident in a Chico park that left his wife seriously injured after she was struck by a falling tree limb.

Dyer’s bail was set at $50,000. McKenzie’s bail is $60,000.

Marlette raised tow owner Scott Davis’ bail from $40,000 to $100,000. Bail for Harless and Christopher Davis remains $40,000. The younger Davis returns Wednesday for a bail hearing and will join the others at the April hearing.

Prosecutors say they are looking at filing similar charges against the towing outfit connected to vehicles removed from privately owned apartment complexes.