April 6, 2005
An investigation into Cactus Towing started after two ex-employees outlined ways they said the company scammed customers, according to a search warrant affidavit.
The Maricopa County Sheriff ’s Office affidavit, which became public Tuesday, cited Mark Brammer and Mark Phillips as sources who said that the Mesa towing company, which has contracts with Mesa, Chandler and the Department of Public Safety, routinely ripped off body shops, insurance companies and towing customers and deceived DPS during an audit. It also cites Ron McClure, who’s in the towing business, saying he received anonymous information about Cactus Towing.
Brammer and Phillips said Cactus owner Lee Watkins and general manager Todd DeMasseo directed the illegal and shady practices. Neither has been arrested or charged with a crime.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio said the "complex" investigation is not limited to what appears in the affidavits.
"We are following up leads that have developed and people have contacted us," Arpaio said. "We have information coming in from all different directions."
Cactus Towing lawyer Kent Nicholas said all of the allegations against the company are false.
Nicholas said McClure is a competitor trying to take down Cactus Towing, and called his anonymous information "suspicious." He said both Brammer and Phillips were "shown the door" by the company.
The search warrants were served Thursday on Cactus Towing’s offices, homes belonging to Watkins and DeMasseo, and a Mesa storage unit.
Investigators hauled away dozens of boxes of businesses records, computers and about $23,000 in cash.
Phillips said Cactus would charge insurance companies as much as $154 more than individual customers for an initial hookup and $2 more per mile for the tow.
Cactus also used stall tactics to ring up extra storage fees and ripped off stereo equipment, windshields and door handles from cars in its yard, all at DeMasseo’s and Watkins’ direction, the affidavit states.
Brammer and Phillips declined to comment, and McClure could not be reached for comment.