Metro East tow yard run by police officer accused of ripping off customers

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by Chris Nagus

KMOV.com

Posted on August 24, 2011 at 9:00 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 25 at 12:27 AM

(KMOV) -- A short distance from the front doors of the Alorton City Hall sits Town & Country towing. The business is run by Harry Halter, known as Dink. According to state records Halter is a cop in Alorton and Fairmount City. Alorton Mayor Randy McCallum says Halter is not a cop in Alorton, instead he is the city's Director of Public Safety. Multiple sources tell News 4 Halter is well known as a police officer in Alorton, and is often seen driving a city owned vehicle.

News 4 asked McCallum if he sees a conflict with sending police ordered tows to Halter's tow yard considering his direct connection with city hall, McCallum did not see a conflict.

 

Two News 4 viewers complained the company towed their cars and charged outrageous fees. Richard Cahill of St. Louis says he was in the process of selling his car in May, but before the transaction was completed the buyer took the car on a test drive and never returned. The buyer was arrested by Alorton police, the car was towed to Town & Country. Cahill says, "They wanted 5 hundred dollars to get it back."

 

Cahill says nobody from the Alorton Police or Town & Country towing contacted him about his vehicle. Harry Halter says Cahill was aware of his vehicles whereabouts 3 days after the tow, and has signed proof showing Cahill visited the tow yard on May 21. Halter says he tried negotiating a deal with Cahill, a claim Cahill denies. Cahill says the two never met until News 4 visited the car lot with him on August 12. On August 3, Town & Country towing sent Cahill a letter saying he owed $2,540 to get his car back, and if it wasn't claimed within 10 business days Town & Country would apply for a salvage title. News 4 shot aerial video of Cahill's car showing the vehicle was already partially dismantled well before that deadline. The video shows the car was missing its wheels.

 

Shamika McMath says her car was towed from her own garage by Town & Country following an accident in her neighborhood in June. McMath says she called 911 after hitting the back tire of a child's bicycle. McMath says the child wasn't injured, Alorton Police say the child was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

 

Police charged McMath with driving with no insurance and leaving the scene of an accident. The leaving the scene ticket was dismissed in court, McMath says officers from the department didn't show up. McMath plead guilty to driving with no insurance. McMath told News 4 Chief Michael Baxton told her she needed to pay $500 for a tow release form from the city, Baxton told News 4 he doesn't recall talking to McMath about the fee. McMath said the last time she called about her car the fees at Town & County alone were more than 25 hundred dollars.

 

Chief Michael Baxton and Mayor Randy McCallum told News 4 the tow release fees are part of a city ordinance and are common among other municipalities in the metro east. News 4 called city hall to ask about the fee structure associated with tow releases. The woman who answered the phone told News 4 felony tow releases cost 5 hundred, misdemeanor offenses cost 150. McMath wasn't charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, both offenses were written as traffic violations according to the St. Clair County clerks office.

 

On Tuesday the mayor, the chief, and Harry Halter agreed to a meeting, but told News 4 they would not allow cameras inside to document the discussion. Shamika McMath also attended the meeting which at times became heated. Mayor McCallum agreed to waive all tow release fees associated with McMath's car, Halter agreed to waive his fees as well. Richard Cahill's car remains at Town & Country towing, Halter says he can still retrieve his car if he pays $500.

 

 

Halter told News 4 this situation could have been resolved without any problems if the individuals hadn't waited weeks to claim their cars. Both individuals say they couldn't afford the steep fees to begin with, and with each passing day the chances of retrieving their cars became financially impossible.

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