Towing company under fire

Three tow trucks from Breakthrough Towing surround a car to apparently prevent the owner of the car from moving his car out of the CVS lot on Holbrook and Jos. Campau. Photo by Tia Krawczyk.

Three tow trucks from Breakthrough Towing surround a car to apparently prevent the owner of the car from moving his car out of the CVS lot on Holbrook and Jos. Campau. Photo by Tia Krawczyk.

Update 3: Well, well, well, someone finally stepped up to the challenge to remove Breakthrough Towing Service signs at CVS. And that someone is City Councilmember Ian Perrotta, who also happens to help out here at The Review with proofreading. Breakthrough can no longer tow cars from the lot, and the people who park in the lot to go to Bumbo’s Bar no longer have to fear getting their cars towed. If a Breakthrough driver does attempt to hook up a car, call 911 immediately and report a car theft in process. (May 16, 2018)

Update 2: Anyone handy with tools? The CVS store manager, Mike Raynor, is inviting anyone to take down the Breakthrough Towing signs. Raynor said he tried to take them down but couldn’t because of the way there are bolted into the back parking wall and on the store dumpster. If you get them down, you can turn over the signs to Raynor.

Update: It’s now up to the manager at CVS Pharmacy to take down the Breakthrough Towing Service signs.
Hamtramck Police Chief Anne Moise told The Review via email that Breakthrough claimed it had a contract with CVS to provide towing services. But, she said, the company has failed to show a copy of the agreement.
The manager of the CVS, Mike Rayner, told Moise that he is “not aware of an agreement between CVS and Breakthrough.”
Moise said CVS corporate officials say “it is up to the individual local stores to control their own parking lots.”
Moise said it’s now up to Rayner to remove the tow company’s warning signs.
“The local manager advised he would look into having the signs removed, however as of today’s date the signs are still in place.” Moise said. “It is up to the local store to decide if they are going to remove the signs or not.”
Once the signs are gone, the company will not have the legal right to tow away cars after the store closes. The tow signs warn that anyone who parks in the CVS lot after hours is subject to being towed at the owner’s expense.
The Review called Rayner on Thursday (May 10) to find out what he plans to do but he was not available for comment.

 

By Charles Sercombe
If you park in the CVS parking lot at night during the weekend – after the store is closed — there is now a good chance your car will be towed.
The owners of Bumbo’s Bar, Tia and Brian Krawczyk, say their customers who park in the lot have been targeted in recent weeks.
The bar is located at Holbrook and Mitchell, across the street from CVS. Posted on the bar’s entrance door is a warning for customers to not park in the CVS lot.
But apparently not everyone notices the warning.
Last Saturday night, witnesses say five tow trucks from a Detroit company called Breakthrough Towing were lined up waiting to hook up cars and tow them away.
In some instances patrons at the bar were alerted before their car was towed out of the lot and for about $250 they could pay the tow driver to unhook the car and allow them to park somewhere else.
For those not lucky enough to catch the tow driver before leaving the lot, it cost them anywhere from $400 to $500 – in cash only – to retrieve their cars from the tow company’s lot.
It is unclear if this towing practice is legal.
The tow company has two signs on the back wall of the parking lot and one on the fence surrounding the CVS dumpster stating that those who park in the lot who are not doing business at CVS will get their car towed at any time.
CVS also has signs warning people not doing business there that their cars can be towed.
But just who authorized Breakthrough Towing to install their signs and tow away cars is unclear.
The store manager of CVS, Mike Rayner, told The Review he did not authorize Breakthrough to tow away cars.
“They have nothing to do with us,” Rayner said.
Rayner, who has worked at the Hamtramck store for two years, even said he was unaware that Breakthrough has signs on the CVS lot.
The Review attempted several times to reach a manager for Breakthrough but was unable to contact him. Each time we called the people who answered told us to call back at a specific time, but the manager was never there. At one point a recorded message said the phone number was not in service.
The Review left a phone number for the manager – who was only identified as John – but he never called back.
Bumbo’s Bar owner Tia Krawczyk said the issue is about CVS being a good corporate neighbor.
“Our biggest concern is for everyone’s safety,” she said.
Krawczyk also says there is an issue with the placement of Breakthrough’s warning sign. According to state law, she said, a sign needs to be at all entrance ways, which they are not.
“We’re at the mercy of corporate CVS to hire an ethical tow company that will provide proper signage and follow the laws,” Krawczyk said.
Acting City Manager Kathy Angerer said she has asked Police Chief Anne Moise to look into the matter.

The parking lot issue is even more clouded.
Rayner insists the parking lot is actually owned by the city and that CVS pays the city rent to use it. But Acting City Manager Angerer says that CVS is the owner of the lot.
The Review reached out to CVS headquarters via email but no one replied.
The behavior of Breakthrough drivers has also become an issue. Krawczyk took a photo of three tow drivers apparently blocking in a car to prevent the owner from driving away.
The company has received scathing reviews from Yelp.com, an online site that consumers use to rate their experiences from a wide variety of companies and services.
Breakthrough has a rating of one star out of five. One person said they wish they could give the company five negative stars.
Another accused the company of being “a total scam” because the company towed a car whose owner had permission to park in a lot.
The company has also been aggressive in towing away cars from a McDonald’s restaurant on Woodward in Midtown Detroit.

May 4, 2018

Updated on May 10, 2018

28 Responses to Towing company under fire

  1. Concerned

    May 5, 2018 at 2:42 am

    If CVS owns the lot and they legally contracted with the towing company, then what happened is a fair game and the car owners should park legally next time.

  2. Fatema Hossain

    May 5, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    According to downloadable Better Business Bureau information, plus state and federal records, the limited liability company known as Breakthrough Towing LLC has a resident agent and owner named Michael Dickerson – the company has an HQ of 15012 W. Lafayette Bldg, Detroit, MI phone (313)228-8528, date of formation: 3/14/2013

    They are a USDOT registered motor carrier (#1867160).

    The McDonalds Woodward tows were legendary. That location was near Wayne State University and many of the complaints were from students who claimed their cars were towed from the restaurant parking lot after they were only in the restaurant for a few minutes. After the nearby police got inundated with calls from patrons about stolen vehicles that were actually being reported by Breakthrough to police as voluntary, tows the controversial tow processes ceased at that location.

  3. John Dory

    May 5, 2018 at 10:02 pm

    @Fatema Hossain:

    There was federal court litigation regarding the McDonalds/Woodward towing operations after the Detroit Police Department was sued by Breakthrough after they had recovered from a storage facility operated by the company a Breakthough tow truck and a seized vehicle taken from the McDonald’s parking lot.

    There have been some controversial reports regarding Breakthrough – including one McDonalds patron who actually saw her vehicle being towed away as she was inside the restaurant:

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/breakthrough-towing-detroit

  4. Gary Freeman

    May 8, 2018 at 10:28 am

    Breakthrough Towing requires payment in cash only? That should be a red flag warning for the IRS!
    And I’m looking forward to CVS removing the unauthorized Breakthrough Towing signs and posting their own signs allowing use of the lot after business hours, or even offering some of the many unused parking spaces in the lot for public use anytime; I’ll resume shopping there when I see that.
    I’m also looking forward to Acting City Manager Angerer and Police Chief Moise getting aggressively involved. Hamtramck Review: Please keep us all posted on this!

  5. Ken Hissong

    May 8, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    Towing companies are the least regulated companies in Michigan. All one has to do is look at the indictment of the owner of B&T Towing. These people are scumbags. I’m waiting for gun fire to break out when these thieves try to tow the wrong car.

  6. guest

    May 8, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    Also, make sure they leave their doors open so we can have a late night snack.

  7. Jay Searcy

    May 10, 2018 at 11:00 am

    We were just nailed last night behind Yemen Cafe. Yemen Cafe only owns the half of the lot against the building. I saw the No Parking sign, but I assumed it was Yemen Cafe that put up the sign for Shatilla Towing. Our group that comes to the park regularly to serve the community has a good relationship with Yemen Cafe, so I thought, no big deal. I had to cough up $400 dollars CASH for two cars that were being towed. I’m not sure who owns the other half of the lot, and that’s just the problem. Had the sign said, Parking Only for patrons of establishment X, then I would not have parked in the space. This is a scam. They waited until an DCFC game night, which we were not attending, again we were there to help the community, and they came with FIVE tow trucks…..

  8. Roadman

    May 11, 2018 at 10:20 pm

    Follow the money trail to find out who is profiting off all these clearly excessive towing operations.

    Is CVS getting a cut of the proceeds?

    Are the drivers themselves getting paid a per vehicle commission?

    Does the City of Hamtramck ever receive a percentage of revenue of any towing activities?

    Why did the City of Hamtramck City Council at one point give the city’s exclusive towing contract to Boulevard & Trumbull Towing when many municipalities have a towing rotation?

    It is not a coincidence that these hardball tactics reported here are occurring in Detroit and Hamtramck, which are poorer areas with a significant minority and immigrant population that do not often assert their rights individually or have ineffective elected public bodies and officials to prevent this type of conduct from victimizing their citizenry.

    Areas like Birmingham, Ann Arbor, Bloomfield Hills or Grosse Pointe would never be victimized like this – they would take swift and decisive action and prevent future occurrences.

  9. Fatema Hossain

    May 12, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    “…..Breakthough claimed it had a contract with CVS to provide towing services. But she said, the company has failed to show a copy of the agreement.”

    CVS corporate officials and the store manager know of no such agreement.

    It seems that if CVS had actually contracted with any towing company they would have been aware of it – and Breakthrough Towing would have a copy of the agreement available that would disclose who signed that contract on behalf of CVS.

    The part I am having a problem understanding is how long have Breakthrough Towing’s signs been up in the CVS parking lot and why did it take so long for CVS management to notice the signs and then commit to taking them down if no such towing agreement existed between CVS and Breakthrough Towing in the first place.

    If Breakthough Towing never had an agreement with CVS but towed away these parked vehicles in the CVS and demanded payment from the vehicle owners to retrieve their autos back, then the argument would be that Breakthough was obtaining money under false pretenses and committing auto theft – but I am having an issue as to why CVS allowed these Breakthrough signs to adorn their lot for so long.

  10. John Dory

    May 12, 2018 at 9:54 pm

    Seems to me that the Breakthrough Towing signs need to be removed ASAP if CVS management never authorized their posting in the first place – and what about all of the motorists who had to cough up hundreds of dollars each in towing and storage charges if Breakthrough Towing drivers were not empowered to conduct the tows in the first place.

    Thanks to the Review staff for their ongoing coverage of this matter.

    Keep us abreast of any new developments.

  11. guest

    May 14, 2018 at 9:02 am

    Last year my car ( registered and insured) was towed from street (front of my house). I was on vacation for ten days, and when I come back a had surprise that cost me some extra money..

  12. The Dude

    May 14, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    How about just painting over the signs if they cannot be removed? Just because this company has old signs hanging in the lot does not mean that they should be allowed to tow at their will.

  13. csercombe

    May 14, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    Can’t recommend destroying their signs. Taking them down, though, is OK.

  14. Roadman

    May 14, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    “How about painting over the signs………”

    How about placing a covering over them until they can be removed – such as canvas or polyurethane.

    My sympathies go out to motorists who had their cars towed under these dubious circumstances.

    Breakthrough Towing management owes an explanation to the public over these recent towing operations at the CVS lot.

  15. Birdman

    May 15, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    If you unlawfully park on private property, and there are NO PARKING signs posted – what do you expect?

    If I go and park my car in a parking space that is reserved for someone else without their express authorization; then I can expect that my vehicle will be towed.

    So, please tell me — what is the issue here?

    It seems that you want to “have your cake and eat it too..”

  16. Stan Zelmanski

    May 15, 2018 at 6:19 pm

    Thanks to the Hamtramck Review for their persistence in pursuit of facts relating to this unfortunate series of circumstances.

    Please continue to give us updates regarding what is going on with this.

    I am particularly interested in learning more of the Breakthough Towing “contract” they allege as their basis in initiating these towing operations.

  17. Roadman

    May 16, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    Re Update 3:

    Thanks for the good news.

    Is the police investigation still ongoing?

    Are there any attempts for affected motorists to recover monies paid to Breakthrough to recover their vehicles seized from the CVS parking lot?

  18. Nasr Hussain

    May 17, 2018 at 1:42 pm

  19. Nasr Hussain

    May 17, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(n3w4ki3ux4jeoc4aeqxlpgpr))/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectname=mcl-257-252a

    (10) Before removing the vehicle from private property, the towing agency shall provide reasonable notice by telephone, or otherwise, to a police agency having jurisdiction over the vehicle that the vehicle is being removed. The police agency shall determine if the vehicle has been reported stolen and enter the vehicle into the law enforcement information network as an abandoned vehicle. Verification by the police agency of compliance with this section is not necessary and is not a predicate to the entrance of the vehicle into the law enforcement information network.

  20. Nasr Hussain

    May 17, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    Use this link:

    goo.gl/Vzzyu3

  21. Roadman

    May 18, 2018 at 3:04 am

    Ahhhh, customers are singing the praises of Breakthrough Towing on their Facebook site, with 51 client reviews:

    http://www.facebook.com/Breakthrough-Towing-LLC-292915860906906/

    Here is an example of some of the gems that have been posted:

    “My handicapped accessible van was towed Thursday night. I was absolutely stranded as I cannot get into other vehicles……” – Halie Watt, 12/31/2017

  22. Roadman

    May 18, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    The Facebook site of Breakthrough Towing referenced above contained a post of one Lisa Emmons regarding an incident occurring on February 6, 2016 in Hamtramck involving Breakthrough Towing in which she notified the City of Hamtramck Police Department – who at that point were already well aware of controversial conduct of that company in towing operations.

    The Hamtramck City Manager was made aware of the Breakthrough Towing problem and the Mayor actually posted about the problem herself., per Ms. Emmons’ post.

    This shows that city officials were aware of the fact Breakthrough Towing was engaged in alleged predatory towing practices over two years ago – but the controversy was permitted to flourish.

    I do not believe anything would have been done to correct these problems absent the recent fine investigative reporting of the Hamtramck Review and the helpful actions of Ian Perrotta.

  23. Stan Zelmanski

    May 18, 2018 at 11:04 pm

    The positive Facebook comments regarding Breakthrough Towing are:

    (A) they have nice corporate logos appearing on their trucks;

    (B) they are prompt in arriving at a prospective tow location when a customer has called.

    Some of the most disturbing comments were handicapped persons who were stranded near Cass Corridor after their vehicle was towed away at the McDonald’s/Woodward location near Wayne State University. One had to travel over two miles in his wheelchair after his car was towed from that McDonald’s lot.

  24. Fatema Hossain

    May 19, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    AAA Michigan recovered a default judgment in federal court in Detroit for violations of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act and trademark infringement, Case No 13-12775, against Breakthrough Towing and its owner Michael Dickerson, and Judge Paul Borman entered a permanent injunction against the towing operator.

    The key allegations were unauthorized use of AAA’s emblem to the public.

  25. Fatema Hossain

    May 19, 2018 at 4:23 pm

    Breakthough Towing is licenses by the USDOT as well as the MSP to engage in towing operations as a common carrier.

    Has anyone ever made a complaint against their licenses?

  26. John Dory

    May 19, 2018 at 6:40 pm

    @Fatema Hossain:

    Just checked the 36th District Court in Detroit on their website that has a case search engine and it appears there are 19 cases in which Breakthrough towing is listed as a defendant. Plaintiffs include the State of Michigan and Auto Club of Michigan in separate cases.

    Some of the persons filing suit were motorists who contested the towing fees imposed to obtain release of their vehicles and some obtained judgments to reimburse them for towing fees wrongfully demanded on vehicles erroneously declared “abandoned”.

    I hope some or all of the Bumbo’s clientele will recover their monies and file grievances against the licenses of Breakthrough Towing.

  27. Roadman

    May 21, 2018 at 1:28 am

    @Nasr Hussein:

    Thanks for the links.

    It appears that Breakthrough Towing has had a history of being in court proceedings.

    Somebody should check to see if they have been taken to court in Hamtramck – they obviously have a history of controversial conduct in Hamtramck that commences as early as at least 2016.

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