Charlotte company was practically banned from towing. Records show they still towed hundreds of cars
The NCDOJ lawsuit against David Satterfield and his company has done little to slow down his towing business.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - For the last two and half years, a lawsuit and injunction against tow truck driver David Satterfield was supposed to make it all but impossible for him and his companies to keep towing. A WBTV Investigation now reveals Satterfield and Automobile Recovery and Parking Enforcement have towed hundreds of cars since the injunction filed against him by the North Carolina Department of Justice.
The latest WBTV report on Satterfield raises more questions about whether there are enough regulations on the towing industry in North Carolina if even the top law enforcement official in the state effectively can’t stop one tow truck driver from conducting business.
“I think North Carolina law, as it governs predatory towing practices like what we have alleged. Mr Satterfield engaged in, needs to be stronger and I am happy to work with the legislature to find ways to better protect car owners,” NC Attorney General Josh Stein told WBTV.
Stein’s office recently filed a motion for criminal contempt in their case against Satterfield, alleging that Satterfield kept towing vehicles in violation of the injunction that was granted by a judge in May 2020.
That court order requires Satterfield to get permission from the property owner before towing each vehicle and that he releases every car to the owner for just one-half of what he’s charging. There are a dozen other provisions that Satterfield would have to follow in order to tow within the injunction orders.
“Mr. Satterfield, we allege, continues to flout the injunction of the court the order of the court, and for that reason, we’re going to go to the court and see criminal contempt against him for his willful violations,” Stein said.
But the hearing didn’t go according to NCDOJ’s plan.
NCDOJ only produced one witness in court, truck driver Nicholas Bedney, who WBTV interviewed in October 2021 after he received a court order from a judge to get his truck back from Satterfield’s lot at ARPE. It was unclear what Satterfield’s role was in the towing since a different company actually towed Bedney’s truck.
The judge ruled against NCDOJ’s criminal contempt motion.
WBTV still had questions for Satterfield after the case.
“I’m still getting calls from people and seeing receipts that have Automobile Recovery and Parking Enforcement on them, showing charges more than what’s allowed in the injunction, credit card fees more than what’s allowed in the injunction. Is anybody in your company still towing?” Investigative Reporter David Hodges asked Satterfield.
“I’ve got nothing to say to you, man,” Satterfield responded.
Tows in Charlotte are supposed to be reported to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department so WBTV requested the records to determine how many tows Satterfield has made since the lawsuit was brought against him by NCDOJ.
Since the injunction was filed against Satterfield, his company has reported 706 tows to CMPD over two and a half years.
Most of them have been at apartment complexes along Seigle Avenue.
That’s where Brittani Barnett lives, who WBTV interviewed in August after her car was towed by ARPE. Her car and 179 others have been towed from lots along Seigle, where the median household income is $29,000 less than the county average.
Based on the most recent ARPE receipts WBTV has obtained, the average tow from Satterfield’s company costs $250. Since the injunction was filed against Satterfield on May 22, 2020, Satterfield has charged approximately $45,000 to 180 car owners along Seigle Ave.
“I got my kids, rent just got paid. I don’t have money like that for this guy, especially somebody that shouldn’t even be towing,” Barnett told WBTV.
Barnett paid full price to get her car back, and she was charged various fees, in violation of the court order.
Since WBTV’s report in August regarding Satterfield, signs for Automobile Recovery and Parking Enforcement have come tumbling down along Seigle. But some remain, including at the Salvation Army.
A spokesperson for the Salvation Army told WBTV they were unaware of Satterfield’s history, and they promptly took his sign down.
“My company’s not doing anything that (different) than any other impounding company,” Satterfield told WBTV after the court hearing.
Since Jan 1, 2020 towing companies have reported 90,430 non-consensual/repo tows to CMPD.
You can find the data on which companies are towing the most and what areas are most targeted for towing here.
“There’s nothing worse than leaving a place and having a boot on your car with some exorbitant price attached to it,” Stein said.
“Because you need your car back.”
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