KCBD INVESTIGATES: State orders refunds for illegal towing

KCBD INVESTIGATES: State orders refunds for illegal towing
Updated: Apr. 12, 2016 at 1:03 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - KCBD started investigating viewer complaints into a towing company called West Texas Lender Support in the fall of 2013.

Viewers told KCBD that WTLS may have illegally towed nearly a dozen vehicles from the National Flea Market on Clovis Road. KCBD began looking into these allegations and learned WTLS had not posted the signage required by the state at the flea market.

Our investigation prompted an investigation by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. KCBD has obtained more than 3,500 pages of documents from this investigation.

Inside these documents, complainants reference KCBD's story about the towing company not having the proper signage. That means the vehicles were towed illegally, costing drivers hundreds of dollars.

"We haven't been reimbursed," said Dina Ramirez.

"Not one cent," said Maria Mariscal.

"It was like $292 or $293," said Ramirez.

Ramirez and Mariscal want their money back, and according to the 3,564 page state investigation, that is exactly what should happen.

"My mouth just went to the floor; I didn't think it was going to be that much," Mariscal said.

Mariscal and Ramirez are two of about a dozen Lubbock residents whose vehicles were towed from the National Flea Market.

Ramirez said getting her vehicle back from WTLS cost more than it should have.

"They had a sign on the door that they weren't accepting credit cards or any form of payment other than cash. Many of us went to the ATM, took out $300 and they just kept the rest," Ramirez said.

The documents KCBD obtained from the state investigation confirm that at least three people were not given change.

"I didn't think he had parked in a place where we shouldn't have parked," Mariscal said.

"Randall Hurst, reimburse us," Ramirez said.

In August of 2014, a prosecutor with the TDLR offered to dismiss most of the administrative fines against Hurst if he would refund all of the money owed to the complainants for the illegal tows.

In early January, KCBD attempted to contact all eight of the flea market complainants to see if they had received a refund. KCBD was able to reach six of those complainants who said they had not been refunded.

KCBD traveled all the way to Austin to the TDLR. The agency said that more than a year after these complaints were filed, they are still working to get our viewers their money.

"It is my understanding that your station aired a piece on Jan. 6, 2014 and immediately, the very next day, we started receiving complaints. Those complaints were sent to an investigator who completed her investigation in July of 2014," said Susan Stanford with the TDLR.

That investigation determined Hurst's company did conduct unauthorized tows due to lack of required signage. According to the documents, Hurst should surrender his license for one year and refund the complainants.

These cases were then turned over to a TDLR prosecutor, "who has been in informal settlements with the owner of the tow company since that time. Our goal is to get your viewers their money back," Stanford said.

Stanford said it is not unusual for an investigation to take more than a year. She said her department will continue to send quarterly letters to the complainants updating them on the investigation.

The complainants told KCBD they will remain hopeful that eventually WTLS will repay them what they are owed.

"I would like for them to just be responsible and to be honest because I don't feel like they were," said Mariscal.

KCBD tried to contact Hurst multiple times for an interview, but he did not respond. KCBD has confirmed that Hurst has closed down his towing company, but the TDLR said he is still responsible for the the violations that took place while the business was open.

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LINK: Click here to file a complaint with the TDLR

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