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St. Louis Cops in Towing Scandal

ST. LOUIS (CN) - The St. Louis Police Department and St. Louis Metropolitan Towing conspired to steal an already stolen Trail Blazer, a mother and son claim in City Court. They say police officials help the towing service get cars and sell them, and are rewarded by being given use of some of the vehicles.

Vivian Ford and Earl Johnson say their 2005 Trail Blazer was stolen in April 2008 and suffered minor damages by the time the police had recovered it and had St. Louis Metropolitan tow it to its lot.

They claim St. Louis Metropolitan refused to let them even see the vehicle, take possession of it or have their insurance company inspect it for damages, but charged $200 for towing and $25 a day for storage.

St. Louis Metropolitan demanded $12,000 before offering to return the vehicle on Nov. 21, 2008, but after complaints, allowed the plaintiffs to take possession after paying $6,075, the suit states.

The plaintiffs say they were forced to pay the money to get the vehicle back. But when they got it, it was heavily damage and it was eventually determined to be a total loss, the suit states.

The plaintiffs claim they were victims of a conspiracy between St. Louis Metropolitan and the Police Department. The defendants - St. Louis Metropolitan, the Board of Police Commissioners, two detectives and others in the police department - entered into a scheme in which cops help St. Louis Metropolitan get vehicles, the suit states. St. Louis Metropolitan then demands money from the owners, or money received from the sale of the vehicles, including money than should go to the city, according to the complaint. In return, members of the police department, their friends, relatives and acquaintances get to use some of the vehicles, the suit states.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch broke the story of the alleged relationship between St. Louis Metropolitan and the Police Department in August 2008.

St. Louis Police Chief Joe Mokwa resigned shortly after it was reported that his daughter, Aimie, had used such cars, and a federal investigation into the police department's actions is believed to be continuing.

The plaintiffs seek punitive damages. They are represented by Martin Perron.

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