Owner of Towing Co. Indicted on Fraud Charge

     ST. LOUIS (CN) – The fallout from the St. Louis Police Department’s towing scandal continued with the federal indictment of the owner of a local towing company. Gregory P. Shepard, 52, owner of S&H Parking Systems, faces felony charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and bribery for allegedly teaming up with police officials to con vehicle owners out of the rights to their cars.

     Shepard served as the general operations manager for S&H, which is affiliated with St. Louis Metropolitan Towing and Parks Auto Sales. St. Louis Metropolitan Towing had a contract with the city police department, and Parks Auto Sales titles and sells a number of vehicles towed by St. Louis Metropolitan.
     Under state regulations, title owners and lien holders must be given 30 days to retrieve their vehicles after receiving notice. If vehicles are not retrieved within 30 days, S&H Parking Systems or one of its affiliates can buy the vehicles and get the original titles.
     Prosecutors say that between October 2004 and August 2008, Shepard devised a scheme to defraud vehicle owners, lien holders and buyers of vehicles towed by St. Louis Metropolitan.
     Shepard allegedly gave no notice or delayed notice to the owners of vehicles towed by St. Louis Metropolitan Towing; told other owners that their vehicles were no longer held by St. Louis Metropolitan when they were; lied to vehicle owners to artificially inflate storage fees; bribed police department employees to pass vehicles for inspection despite obvious flaws; artificially inflated mileage on rental cars towed by St. Louis Metropolitan at the expense of the Avis/Budget Group; and, while acting as a member of the board of the St. Louis Policemen’s Credit Union, notarized a false bill of sale on a repossessed vehicle at the expense of the credit union.
     Shepard faces seven felony counts of mail fraud, two felony counts of bribery involving federal programs, one felony count of wire fraud and one felony count of making false entries. If convicted, mail fraud carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000; bribery carries a penalty of up to 10 years prison and fines up to $250,000; wire fraud carries up to 20 years prison and fines up to $250,000; and false entries carries a penalty of up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $1 million.
     There have been several suits filed against the police board and the towing companies since the St. Louis Post-Dispatch first broke the story about their relationship in August 2008. The paper reported that members of the police department, their friends, relatives and acquaintances would be allowed to use certain vehicles in the possession of St. Louis Metropolitan. St. Louis Police Chief Joe Mokwa resigned shortly after it was reported that his daughter, Aimie, had used the cars.

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