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 Nationwide claims it had nothing to do with the bribery scheme and so its permit shouldn’t have been revoked.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 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 May 31, 2017

Image: Capture from YouTube

In a classic case of fight-or-flight response, a Milwaukee woman named Melissa Smith has just filled up her Subaru Outback and realizes there’s a man on the driver’s side about to steal her off-roading vehicle. Rather than let the thief drive off with her ride, she takes action. Immediately jumping up onto the hood, Melissa stares the criminal right in the eyes. According to an interview the victim provided to various news outlets, the thief laughed in her face and turned the wipers on, in an attempt to brush her off like mere precipitation. That didn’t work. She grabs onto the wipers for dear life. Then in two successive attempts, the would-be thief accelerates quickly and brakes, trying to shake Ms. Smith from the hood.

(Read More…)

By on May 15, 2017

[Image: daseaford/Bigstock.com]

It came out of nowhere — abruptly, suddenly, and violently — like an action scene in a Martin Scorsese movie. A deafening bang drowned out the music on my radio and rattled my one good eardrum. This was followed by an explosion of green leaves, a savage hammering of the brake pedal, and a lot of creative swearing.

Someone had thrown a damn cabbage at my car.

(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…)

By on May 1, 2017

BART C1 Car Interior, Image: Wikipedia

Here’s the good news if you own a car in San Francisco or Oakland: property crime is down by a bit compared to last year. Furthermore, there’s a new “auto burglary task force” to increase the chances that your car isn’t going to disappear overnight.

Here’s the bad news: You might want to consider using that car instead of mass transit to commute to your job or to go out in the evenings.

On April 22, a “flash mob” of between 40 and 60 people identified by the media as “teens” performed a coordinated mass robbery and assault on the occupants of a BART train in Oakland, focusing their violent attention on a particular family. They blocked doors, assaulted passengers, took everything they wanted, and vacated the scene — in just a minute or two. A transit police unit in the parking lot responded about five minutes after the attack, but that was at least 180 seconds too late.

As the saying goes: “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.”

A review of camera footage in the area has resulted in one arrest, but would-be BART users all around the Bay Area have to be asking themselves: Is this likely to happen again? And will this sort of vulnerability prevent commuters from making the switch to mass transit in the future?

(Read More…)

By on April 21, 2017

2015-Volkswagen-Golf-SportWagen-09
Oh my God, it’s finally almost over. After a 10-year conspiracy and almost 600,000 rigged diesel cars, VW’s legal battle with the United States is coming to an end. Volkswagen pled guilty last month to conspiracy to commit fraud and the obstruction of justice after it was caught cheating on emissions tests in 2015, and we’ve been eagerly waiting the verdict and subsequent punishment.

Today, a U.S. judge ordered the automaker to observe three years of probation and shell out a $2.8 billion criminal fine. The sum, which Steph Willems has informed me equates to 135,168 VW Golfs — after delivery and rounding up to the closest car — is in addition to the company’s $1.5 billion in civil penalties,  $4.7 billion in mandatory anti-pollution initiatives, and $11.2 billion diesel buyback program.  (Read More…)

By on April 9, 2017

longbeach imsa

This weekend, the Long Beach Grand Prix saw more than its fair share of misery. It all kicked off days before the actual race when two thieves stole roughly a million dollars worth of parts from Global Motorsports Group in Santa Ana. That’s bad news for the team because they needed a lot of those parts for their McLaren 570S GT4 and Porsche 911 GT3 R race cars. And it’s bad news for the thieves because those McLaren parts can only go into a handful of cars in the United States and are essentially valueless on the black market.

The two thieves were believed to have scouted the location while GMG held an open house, only to return with a stolen truck the following day and make off with their support coach — an essential for item for race day.  (Read More…)

By on March 28, 2017

enzo ferari

Italian investigators said on Tuesday that they had prevented a criminal plot to steal the body of automotive legend and Formula One racing pioneer Enzo Ferrari. The scheme involved using two cars and a van, breaking into San Cataldo cemetery, absconding with the corpse, and then holding it for ransom.

Just imagine the incredible movie that would have resulted from the heist had the police not immediately foiled the plan. It would have equal parts The Italian Job and Weekend at Bernie’s.

Così buono.  (Read More…)

By on March 28, 2017

Brinks truck armored car

For a major city, Houston drivers spend far less time in rush-hour gridlock than those in other large U.S. metropolises. Last year, residents spent an average of 51.5 hours in gridlock, a number unchanged from the year before. Compare that to Los Angeles’ 104.1 hours, Atlanta’s 70.8, Washington, DC’s 61 or Boston’s 57.6.

Overall, Houston ranks the 11th worst city in the U.S. for congestion, despite having the fourth-largest population. The city’s relatively low density and spiderweb of highways makes traversing the urban area an easy task — a benefit for residents who enjoy the leafy suburban life.

Unfortunately, it could also explain the city’s popularity among armored car thieves. (Read More…)

By on March 17, 2017

VW logo

At some point, a scandal grows so big that investigations begin to overlap. When the scope widens even more, investigators suddenly begin investigating each other.

That’s the current situation in the Fatherland, where American law firm Jones Day recently had its offices raided at the request of German authorities in hot pursuit of executive skulduggery. Jones Day, of course, is the internal investigator hired by VW to probe the shady dealings that led to the diesel emissions scandal.

What started with unusual emissions readings at a West Virginia university now feels a lot like The Departed. (Read More…)

By on March 16, 2017

Volkswagen Wolfsburg

Suspecting that a Volkswagen executive might fly the coop if released on bond while awaiting trial, a U.S. District Court judge slammed the cell door shut until early next year.

Oliver Schmidt, who was arrested early this year during a stopover in Miami, is currently cooling his heels in a Detroit jail after being slapped with conspiracy and fraud charges relating to the diesel emissions scandal. With a potential jail sentence of 169 years looming over his head, even $1.6 million ponied up by family and friends wasn’t enough to secure his release. (Read More…)

By on March 10, 2017

Volkswagen Wolfsburg

The Volkswagen diesel emissions saga has reached a logical legal conclusion. The automaker entered a guilty plea in a Detroit federal courtroom this morning, admitting to a vast, 10-year conspiracy to fool environmental regulators through the use of emissions-cheating defeat devices.

As penance, Volkswagen AG must now pay $4.3 billion in criminal fines and civil penalties. That sum can now be added to the multi-billion U.S. buyback of hundreds of thousands of 2.0- and 3.0-liter diesel vehicles manufactured since 2009. While the penalties would be a bitter pill for any automaker to swallow, it’s a fraction of the fine allowed under federal guidelines.

Had the court pursued it, it might have sparked a brand fire sale down at Volkswagen Group. (Read More…)

By on February 24, 2017

lawsuit

Based in Germany and nabbed by federal agents in Florida, Volkswagen’s one-time top emissions compliance manager for the U.S. made an appearance in a federal courtroom in Detroit today.

Indicted, along with five others, on charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. and violating the Clean Air Act, Oliver Schmidt isn’t about to face down hard time without a fight. The executive pleaded not guilty to the charges, reports The Detroit News. (Read More…)

By on February 23, 2017

Design Center Audi. Picture courtesy Audi

There’s no end to the layers of intrigue swirling around the upper echelons of Audi.

Last week saw four engineers who worked on the company’s emissions-rigged diesel engines fired, with one of them, former engine development chief Ulrich Weiss, claiming in court that CEO Rupert Stadler was privy to the deception.

Audi fired back with a lawsuit threat against one or more individuals for “baseless accusations” and the revealing of internal documents. Now, the German publication Bild has released information on a potentially damning document that was reportedly locked away in Weiss’s safe since 2015 for exactly this purpose.

Weiss pulled out the document in a German labor court Tuesday to prove he’s the “pawn” his lawyer claims. (Read More…)

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