Category: Crime & Punishment

By on September 22, 2017

GM

The only people who like towing companies, it seems, are those who make money off them.

A Detroit-area towing company is accused of doing something that will make the rest of us hate towing companies even more, if the allegations are true.

It all started last year, with multiple investigations into Detroit police officers suspected of taking bribes in exchange for giving business to select tow companies.

Nationwide Recovery, the company at the center of this story, sued the city of Detroit in July of this year, claiming that the city pulled its permit illegally. Nationwide claims it had nothing to do with the bribery scheme and so its permit shouldn’t have been revoked. The city of Detroit said that wasn’t true and went to federal court to explain why.

Read More >

By on August 25, 2017

VW logo, Image: Volkswagen

A former Volkswagen engineer who helped federal investigators after being linked to the diesel emissions scandal will cool his heels in an American prison.

U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox sentenced James Liang, 63, to a 40-month term today, tacking on a $200,000 fine for his involvement in the automaker’s diesel deception. Liang is the first Volkswagen employee prosecuted for having a role in the conspiracy. Read More >

By on August 25, 2017

Martin Winterkorn, Image: Volkswagen AG [CC BY 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons

German media is reporting that former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn, who resigned shortly after the diesel emissions scandal erupted in September 2015, was informed about the company’s emissions cheating in late July of that year — a month before the automaker claims its executive board learned of the issue.

Several media outlets are reporting that a former senior VW quality officer told Winterkorn on July 27, 2015 that the company “cheated,” Reuters reports. Read More >

By on August 19, 2017

FCA sign, Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Federal prosecutors charged a fourth player in the widening United Auto Workers-Fiat Chrysler Automobiles corruption scandal on Friday, providing a clearer picture of how the years-long conspiracy went down.

Virdell King, a former senior UAW official and the first black woman to head a UAW-FCA local, now faces the same charges as three others indicted in the $4.5 million money-funnelling scheme. King, who retired in 2016, served on the board of the scandal-plagued UAW-Chrysler National Training Center — a facility prosecutors claim acted as a money pit for the enrichment of FCA and UAW execs.

In a document filed in U.S. District court in Detroit yesterday, prosecutors allege former FCA vice president Alphons Iacobelli opened the cash taps to UAW brass in an attempt to bribe them into taking “company-friendly positions.” The training center’s funds, earmarked for autoworkers, served as the bank. NTC credit cards apparently made making the lavish purchases a breeze.

“If you see something you want, feel free to buy it,” Iacobelli said, according to the court filing.

Read More >

By on August 18, 2017

UAW-Chrysler National Training Centre (Norwood Jewell on left), Image: UAW-Chrysler National Training Center

On the surface, the UAW-Chrysler National Training center is a facility offering a helping hand to blue-collar workers looking to improve their employability. But the widening spending scandal involving former top brass at both the union and automaker has exposed a previously unknown use for the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles-funded NTC: a trough of cash at which to gorge oneself.

Two weeks after former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles financial analyst Jerome Durden, indicted for funnelling $4.5 million in training center funds to other execs, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States, the scandal has spread to existing execs.

The Detroit News reports current United Auto Workers Vice President Norwood Jewell (seen above, on left) became the recipient of some of those funds in the form of a high-powered gift: a $2,180 shotgun. Read More >

By on July 8, 2017

2014 audi a6 tdi engine

American investigators, hot on the trail of Volkswagen Group executives and managers with dirty hands, haven’t had the easiest time bringing suspected emissions scandal conspirators to trial. Germany doesn’t extradite citizens facing charges in other countries, making justice a tricky pursuit for U.S. authorities.

So far, only two players in the diesel deception find themselves in the arms of U.S. law enforcement— James Liang, a former executive who worked in California (and has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges), and Oliver Schmidt, a former U.S. environmental liaison who previously worked out of VW’s Michigan emissions office. Federal agents nabbed him during a Miami layover as the German national returned home from a tropical vacation in January. Six others remain safely in Germany after a U.S. indictment.

Well, expect another trial now. Earlier this week, Munich police arrested an Italian national, Zaccheo Giovanni Pamio, the former head of thermodynamics at Audi’s engine development division. It’s the first diesel-related arrest in Germany and Pamio’s citizenship means he’s a candidate for extradition to the United States.

Now charged in connection to the scandal, American authorities hope Pamio squeals on his bosses at Audi. As for his involvement, the federal government alleges Pamio and others decided a premium sound system was a better use of vehicle space than a proper emission control system. Read More >

By on July 5, 2017

squad car police

It’s estimated that roughly 28 people are killed every day as a result of drivers intoxicated on alcohol. In 2015, 10,265 people died in alcohol-related incidents, accounting for nearly one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities within the United States. However, the Department of Transportation shows the number of deaths associated with drunk driving trending downward since 2007. Likewise, the number of annual self-reported alcohol-impaired driving episodes recorded by the CDC have diminished to record lows in that same timeframe — and so have arrests.

Law enforcement likely played an important role. Police departments take drunk driving seriously and decades of aggressive actions have made the risks involved less than appetizing to even those whose judgement is clouded by booze. But as alcohol-related arrests have plummeted, drug-related arrests have gone up.

While much of this can be attributed to drunk drivers who decided to double-down with marijuana, drugs are estimated to be a factor in 16 percent of motor vehicle crashes where alcohol isn’t present. This has resulted in some police departments implementing special task forces designated to identify and arrest “drugged drivers.” But there is a problem — officers in Georgia have been arresting innocent people.  Read More >

By on June 29, 2017

Car in a Driveway, Image: Bigstock.com

For many years the phrase “keep the car running” carried a fine in some Michigan locales if put into practice. At least, it once did.  As of Wednesday, the state of Michigan has made it legal to warm up your car in the driveway as you stare at it, coffee in hand, from the front window. Careful, though — local anti-idling laws might still apply.

A local law enacted to prevent vehicle theft was the reason behind a $128 ticket issued to Roseville resident Taylor Trupiano back in January. A police officer handed over the civil infraction notice after seeing Trupiano’s car, with keys in the ignition, engine running, and doors unlocked, sitting unattended in the driveway for an extended period of time. The owner claimed he was simply warming up his car for his girlfriend and two-year-old son.

Eventually, the matter ended up in court. While Trupiano eventually lost his case — he was unable to prove that his driveway wasn’t easily accessible to the public — state lawmakers took notice. Read More >

By on May 31, 2017

2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 75th Anniversary Edition, Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Jeep Wrangler owners in the city of San Diego can sleep easier knowing three men are behind bars and several more are on the run following a crackdown on thieves targeting the popular off-roader.

Since 2014, more than 150 Wranglers have disappeared from the driveways and garages of San Diego homes, often while the owners are asleep. Thanks to the city’s Regional Auto Theft Taskforce (RAT), law enforcement now knows how the theft ring operated, and where exactly those Wranglers went. Bad news for owners: they’ll likely never see their vehicles again. Read More >

By on May 21, 2017

chevrolet-suburban-2005

There wasn’t anything particularly bizarre happening within the automotive realm last week, so our Freaky Friday posting was absent from its usual rotation. However, while our writing staff was finishing its day, two car thieves threw a Hail Mary of weirdness down the field for a touchdown.

A beige Chevrolet Suburban owned by a contractor working for Daniel & Sons Funeral Home was transporting a corpse when witnesses claim 28-year-old Tanya Albrecht stole it from a convenience store parking lot in Bryan, Texas. The SUV had been left unattended with the keys in the ignition, presumably because the owner assumed nobody would want to steal a car with a dead body in the back.  Read More >

By on May 16, 2017

2016 Hyundai Sonata, Image: Hyundai Motor America

He lost his job for it, but Kim Gwang-ho, a 25-year Hyundai veteran at the automaker’s Seoul, South Korea facility, knew he needed to speak out.

The engineer blew the whistle on his employer, reporting the automaker to both South Korean and American officials after uncovering evidence Hyundai was covering up a defect in several of its models. Kim even published internal documents to back up his claim.

Kim, 55, was fired from his job, but authorities took note. As a result, a further 240,000 vehicles — totaling 12 models — have been added to a recall already 1.4 million strong. Read More >

By on May 11, 2017

Porsche cayenne diesel

Is was probably with a sigh of relief that U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer granted final approval to a settlement for owners of 3.0-liter diesel Volkswagen Group vehicles earlier today. The issue has consumed no shortage of court time both before and after last December’s preliminary approval for a buyback, compensation and fix plan.

More than 80,000 Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi models were sold with engines rigged to cheat on emissions tests. Many of those units will now be bought back and others fixed — a plan with a minimum $1.22 billion price tag.

Breyer’s approval marks the end of the automaker’s main legal wranglings in the U.S. It also opens the cash floodgates, as even owners who opt for a fix will see a pile of crisp, clean dollars from VW. Read More >

By on May 9, 2017

Porsche cayenne diesel

While places like New York and California might come to mind first, no one bans things quite like the jurisdictions north of the border. Banning, a popular pastime given the cold outside temperatures, are always done in the hazy pursuit of public safety. Something bad could happen? Ban it.

When it comes to smoking, few will disagree that smoking in the workplace can have a negative impact on employees. The same goes for restaurant and bar patrons. As non-smoking areas (both indoors and outdoors) expand across the U.S., here’s a cautionary tale of how vindictive and overzealous an enforcer of these law can be.

They’ll nab you in your car. Read More >

By on May 4, 2017

rolling coal

Rolling coal is one of the more contentious forms of automotive customization, primarily because it’s as much associated with vindictive cruelty as it is with having a good time.

In fact, there are probably more videos on YouTube of modified diesel truck owners blasting cyclists, protesters, activists, and EV drivers with sooty smoke than there are not. Over the last few years, rolling coal has become a way for many to showcase their anti-environmentalist and hard-right viewpoints. However, regardless of your politics, being on the receiving end of a diesel truck intentionally running ultra-rich is obnoxious and several states have attempted to ban the practice.

After three failed attempts, Colorado finally managed to pull it off. While earlier attempts fizzled, mainly due to concerns expressed by the Republican-controlled Senate over how regulations might affect the trucking and agriculture industries, a revised bill better addressed those concerns. Now, law enforcement will undergo training to help differentiate between a smoky work truck and those specifically designed to run rich for the purpose of rolling.  Read More >

By on May 1, 2017

[Image: fourbyfourblazer/Flickr]

Twitter users are well aware of the hilarious and perplexing misadventures — usually fueled by alcohol or meth — of “Florida Man” and “Florida Woman,” but in Pinellas County, the person behind the wheel of your recently stolen vehicle is much more likely to be a Florida boy or girl.

There’s an epidemic afoot in the Gulf Coast county. Local law enforcement is scrambling to combat a growing tide of repeat juvenile car thieves as the danger on the county’s roads grows. Meanwhile, it seems local residents haven’t exactly made the thefts a difficult task. Read More >

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