A Redwood City towing company charged with illegally hauling away hundreds of vehicles throughout San Mateo County was ordered last week to pay $42,330 in penalties, according to prosecutors.
The judgment handed down Thursday against Isabel Trujillo, operator of Specialty Towing and Recovery Inc. at 2666 Middlefield Road, will distribute $22,330 to the 283 consumers who were identified as having been charged unlawful fees, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.
All the illegal towing incidents occurred on private property, including parking garages, and mostly in Redwood City, according to Deputy District Attorney Chuck Finney, who heads the district attorney's consumer and environmental unit.
Prosecutors filed a complaint in February alleging that Trujillo and Specialty Towing towed cars without the property owner or motorist present, as required by state vehicle code.
They reportedly also didn't provide motorists written authorization for the tow when they showed up to pick up their cars.
And when motorists arrived at the scene before their cars were hauled away, according to prosecutors, the company allegedly refused to allow motorists to pay half the regular towing charge to have it released — also a violation of California law.
Before customers paid for the tow, the prosecutor added, the company failed to provide the telephone number they could call should they want to contest the tow.
The company also was accused of charging excessive rates when it had to use a dolly to tow cars, which is illegal in San Mateo County, Finney said.
Customers eligible for the restitution money will be contacted by the District Attorney's Office once Specialty Towing pays up, Wagstaffe said. The restitution will be paid in unspecified installments.
Thursday's judgment, which came without a trial, did not include an admission or finding of wrongdoing by Trujillo or Specialty Towing, Wagstaffe said.
In February, Trujillo's attorney told the San Mateo County Times that any mistakes that were made were unintentional.