Dealership says car on its lot improperly towed, later found on fire
MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (WCSC) - The burned-out shell of a 2004 red Pontiac GTO lies tucked away in the corner of a used car dealership junkyard, its red leather interior eaten away by flames and its custom engine and transmission gone.
“It was a beautiful machine. A very beautiful piece of automotive history,” Deals on Wheels II Sales Manager Eric Duncan said.
The vehicle identification number had been removed, but Duncan says it’s unmistakable even after being destroyed by the fire.
“It had the same exhaust and Kooks headers on it. Those are custom for that car,” Duncan said. “The GTO is a very rare bird anyways. It’s just a very sought-after car to come by with that engine-transmission combo.”
Surveillance footage shows the car being towed off the Deals on Wheels II car lot in Moncks Corner on June 6 around 5 p.m. The car dealership called the Berkeley county Sheriff’s Office to report the vehicle stolen.
Eleven days later, Berkeley County deputies found it fully engulfed in flames near Bethel Road and Fishermans Drive in St. Stephen.
Duncan says the car was worth $12,000, but the engine parts, which were removed before the car caught fire, could sell for around $6,000.
He believes the car was stolen with the intent of selling those parts on the black market.
If stealing a car under surveillance at 5 p.m. seems unusual, that’s because the people who picked up the car didn’t know they were stealing it.
The tow truck company responsible for taking the car is KT Towing and Recovery. A company representative said they received a call to pick up a car and drop it off somewhere and that’s what they did.
The representative who took the call says he has no idea who is who when they get called. He says the man who called him told the company that he had pushed the car onto the car lot.
Duncan says they use towing services all the time and there’s generally some kind of check to make sure the person ordering the tow owns the car. He says watching his car get taken away by a legitimate company is shocking.
“It was very upsetting. It’s something you never would think would happen and when we saw the video our instant response is why are they taking our car,” Duncan said. “It’s unbelievable that that could happen. That someone can randomly call and say, ‘Oh, my car broke down.’ There was a buyer’s guide in the window, no tags on the car, the car was locked, the e-brake was on and they still continue to take the car.”
The KT Towing representative says the driver was new and should have picked up on the suspicious circumstances. However, he says law enforcement investigated the driver and did not find him to be colluding with the person who called for the tow.
He goes on to say they get hundreds of calls a week for tows and don’t usually get proof of ownership. He says most of the time people will call about their car breaking down at a business and ask to have it towed to their homes. He says that’s just how the towing business works.
Duncan says he asked law enforcement if they could press charges.
“We were told stupidity was not a crime on account of the tow truck driver being new,” Duncan said. “We have been told we have to hire an attorney. But again, that costs money and we are a small business. We have struggled through just like everybody else.”
Deals on Wheels II has security cameras, but Duncan is concerned that if they don’t catch the people responsible, this tactic could be used elsewhere.
“What if another business doesn’t have cameras and tow trucks are just rolling up taking people’s cars and they have no idea where their car went?” Duncan said. “The only reason we found out they took our car is because we have cameras. So, it’s just one of those things where no one can give us a valid reason as to why this tow truck company took our car.”
Several other tow truck companies said they don’t necessarily require proof of ownership but do occasionally get suspicious calls and look for red flags before agreeing to a tow.
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