Chris Stoffers regularly sees tow trucks from Longhorn Wrecker trolling the parking lot of his apartment complex, the Pecan Tree Apartments at 3012 Storey Lane. On August 19, they came for his.
He paid $168 to retrieve his car and then forked over an additional $26 for something called a "tow hearing" -- a trial that gives tow victims a chance to win their money back, if they can prove that the tow was illegal. His trial was scheduled for September 13, last Friday. The night before, he got a strange phone call.
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It was a man from Longhorn Wrecker, who identified himself only as Patrick, Stoffers says. "He said if he sees me in public he's going to fuck me up ... and good luck getting to the tow hearing tomorrow because my car won't be there."
Stoffers called the police. According to a police report, the suspect (who isn't named) admitted to officers that he had called Stoffers that night and "confirmed that he called him 'sweety' and 'honey.'" In an interview with Unfair Park, Patrick denied threatening Stoffers.
"I would just like for that man to just leave us alone," he said. "He didn't have a resident sticker on his car, he was backed in, he was parked by the tree ... I don't want to hear anymore about this, OK?"
Consumer-rights advocate Pat Johnson, who ran several tow companies before founding the Texas Towing Compliance blog, has long accused Longhorn of using illegal signs. Under state laws, tow truck companies must provide a specific type of sign so people have fair warning before they park in a tow-away zone.
"Anyone towed by Longhorn Wrecker should file a Justice Court suit against the parking facility that has this sign posted ..." Johnson writes on his blog, with an accompanying picture of a Longhorn sign.
With Johnson's help, Stoffers studied up on the law before his trial. He also started filming Longhorn Wrecker employees in his parking lot. In one recent video, Stoffers and other Pecan Tree residents rally to save a man's car as Longhorn attempts to take it away.
"I'm recording this, you're illegally towing that car, as there are no signs present at this parking facility!" Stoffers can be heard shouting in the video. "You're a car thief, sir! There are no signs present."
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Then came his hearing. Stoffers presented his case, and the judge ruled that Longhorn didn't have the legal signs to justify the tow. "I kicked ass," Stoffers says.
After the case, Stoffers came home to find a Longhorn employee, whom he says is Patrick, taking photographs in his driveway. He took out his camera again and the men got in another verbal spat. Watch here: