Montreal

Employees of Montreal towing company arrested

Montreal police said the company would seize vehicles that were parked illegally on private or commercial properties and keep them until owners paid them immediately by cash or credit, and that's theft.

12 employees of Accès Remorquage face charges ranging from theft, fraud, conspiracy and armed assault

Montreal police say it's illegal for a towing company to demand money on the spot for the return of your vehicle. (The Canadian Press)

Police targeted a towing company Tuesday in three early morning raids in Laval, Saint-Jérôme and Montreal, arresting 12 people.

In total, police had 13 arrest warrants for employees of Accès Remorquage. They were still searching for the one remaining suspect Tuesday evening.

Seven tow trucks belonging to the company, which operates primarily in Montreal's north end, were also seized. 

Those arrested included the owners, managers and several employees. Six of the 12 arrested were detained.

Police say they face charges including theft, fraud, extortion, conspiracy and armed assault.

Car owners forced to pay on the spot, police say

Police spokesman Insp. André Durocher said the company would seize vehicles parked in violation of rules advertised on private or commercial properties and keep them until owners paid them immediately by cash or credit.

Some customers faced violence and others were charged amounts beyond the allowable fee, which Durocher said is about $100 including taxes.

If you ask for your vehicle and a tow-truck driver refuses, call the police — they're not allowed to do that, it's theft.- Montreal police Insp. André Durocher

"In some cases ... if someone came out and they were starting to [tow] their car, they would refuse to release the car unless the person paid immediately on the spot, and that's illegal," Durocher said.

"If you ask for your vehicle and a tow-truck driver refuses [and forces you to pay], call the police — they're not allowed to do that, it's theft." 

Police said they have received 75 complaints about the company since last fall, and that there was enough evidence in 50 of those cases to proceed with arrests.

Police say same company in the news last year

Durocher said the company used to be known as Remorquage A9, which was in the news last year after a number of car owners accused it of questionable business practices, including intimidation and threats.

At the time, Quebec's consumer protection office said A9 was "one of the top companies regarding complaints" in the province and issued the company a warning to correct its way of doing business.

An unrelated report by Montreal's inspector general, released in April, found the city's towing industry has been infiltrated by organized crime groups that resort to violence and intimidation to secure profits.

Some companies under contract with the city have ties to one of the main organized crime networks, be it the Hells Angels, the Mafia or street gangs, according to the report.

With files from Kristy Rich

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