Feb. 21–A tow truck monopoly resorted to violence, intimidation and property damage to chase off competitors — even going as far as striking their rivals’ vehicles with a crane, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Daniel Steininger, 44, used a variety of illegal tactics to dominate the towing business citywide for nearly two-and-a-half years, according to indictments filed against him and 16 others.
Steininger, 44, of Long Island, skirted city regulations that establish a towing rotation meant to distribute jobs to licensed companies, authorities said.
He scooped up towing companies, and deceived city agencies by registering under various corporate names to control a major piece of the market, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.
He allegedly used a mob associate, Carl Fava, 58, to oversee the arrangement.
“In order to get as many spots on that rotation list as possible, the defendants … fraudulently acquired and consolidated various other towing companies and then stacked that roster with multiple companies,” Vance told reporters at a press conference announcing the case.
When the NYPD formally reopened the bidding process, allowing tow truck companies to work on the city’s highways, Stenininger and his sister, Karen, 38, would have multiple companies under their control submit “competing” applications for the same stretches of roadway, prosecutors said.
And Steininger encouraged his employees to “show some force” when encountering the competition, prosecutors said.
His drivers resorted to “chasing” — another way to operate out of bounds — by listening to police scanners and rushing to crash sites and steal jobs from other vendors.
“In several instances the defendants simply used violence to maintain their dominance. If a rival company arrived on scene at the same time as one of (Steininger’s) drivers . . . (they would) show some force, cause a ruckus,” Vance said.
The suspects went so far as to strike rivals’ trucks with a crane — a practice known as “blasting,” prosecutors said.
All but two of the 17 people indicted surrendered early Wednesday and appeared before Justice Daniel Conviser in Manhattan Supreme Court. They pleaded not guilty.
Investigators also uncovered tax fraud, money laundering and insurance fraud in connection with the towing operation, prosecutors said.
Charges include enterprise corruption, scheme to defraud, conspiracy and related counts.
Bail was set at $1 million for Steininger — who posted bond and was released immediately. Karen Steininger was released on $500,000 bail.
Lawyer Joseph Mure, who represents brothers Michael, 49, Angelo, 53, and Salvatore Mazzio, 40, accused of manipulating permit usage, said the trio surrendered voluntarily and will “fight these charges.”
Mure added that the investigation has been on their radar for some time.
“They have known for a year,” he said.
With John Annese
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