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Local tow truck driver charged with grand theft of motor vehicle

September 20, 2013
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

A local tow truck driver has been arrested after detectives say he towed a vehicle he had no business towing.

Michael Strickland, 46, of 249 Cape Coral Parkway, #2, Cape Coral, faces several charges including grand theft of a motor vehicle.

According to the Lee County Sheriff's Office, the incident began Aug. 30, when the victim parked her car in a parking lot behind the business where she works and left the vehicle there overnight. Surveillance video shows that on Sept. 1 at approximately 6:30 a.m., a tow truck reportedly representing Covenant Towing drove onto the property at 4350 Fowler St. A white male exited the tow truck, hooked up the car, and drove away.

At approximately 9:30 a.m., the victim returned to the parking lot to retrieve her car only to find it missing. The victim called the Fort Myers Police Department and was advised it was private property towed by Covenant Towing earlier that morning. The victim called Covenant Towing and was told it would cost her $194 cash to get her car back. The call was quickly disconnected. After numerous follow-up calls went unanswered, the victim located an address for Covenant Towing at 2309 Hancock Bridge Parkway and went to the location.

This location is now leased by another company and after her complaint, the owner of the company contacted the Lee County Sheriff's Office to investigate.

The LCSO said, in the meantime, the victim had received a voicemail from Covenant Towing stating there were issues with the phone and that he wanted to return the vehicle to her. An agreement was made to meet at the Publix plaza at Hancock Bridge Parkway and Orange Grove Boulevard for the exchange at 7 p.m. The caller never showed. At approximately 1 a.m. on Sept. 2, the victim drove by the plaza and found her car sitting in the parking lot by itself.

A detective with the Lee County Sheriff's Office Traffic Unit viewed the surveillance video of when the car was initially towed. He recognized the driver as Michael Strickland due to previous encounters with him.

The detective followed up by meeting with the property management company representing Builders Square Plaza. The manager stated he contracts with a different towing company for all towing off his property and that he personally signs for all vehicles to be removed. The manager advised he did not authorize a tow on Sept. 1 for the car in question. He further advised he has never done business with Covenant Towing.

The investigation determined that Strickland intentionally towed a vehicle he knew he wasn't authorized to tow and tried to collect money from the victim for its return.

On Sept. 18 at approximately 3:30 p.m., Strickland was located at his Cape Coral residence and arrested.

 
 

 

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