Baltimore City impound probe widens

Local,News,Stephen Janis
A 2007 GMC Acadia that arrived at Baltimore’s impound lot in early March immediately caught the eye of independent tow-truck river Fred Madero.

As he pulled cars off the Pulaski Highway impound lot, Madero said he thought the truck would be prized property at the lot’s twice monthly auction.

“It was a nice truck, in good condition; it probably would have gone for $16,000,” Madero said.

But the truck never made it to the auction block. Instead it was taken off the auction list for several months by impound lot officials before disappearing off the lot completely.

“I wasn’t surprised. They do it all the time,” he said. “The city is supposed to auction off the cars and give the money to the owner or lien holder after the fees are paid. They shouldn’t be pulling cars out of the auction.” 

The fate of the 2007 GMC Acadia marks a new phase in an ongoing investigation by Inspector General Hilton Green into alleged improprieties by city officials at impound auctions.

The Baltimore Sun first reported that Green was probing the purchase of a boat by city Department of Transportation deputy director Anthony Wallnofer Jr. from Frankford Towing, a company that was lobbying the city for increased towing fees. The boat was sold at auction to Frankford towing and later purchased by Wallnofer.

But now sources familiar with the case said Green has widened his probe to investigate what happened to the GMC truck that should have been auctioned.

“I have no comment,” Green said. “All I can say is that the investigation is ongoing.”

City law requires cars towed into the impound lot to be sold after an owner is given adequate time, usually 45 days, to claim the car and pay towing fees, storage charges, or unpaid parking tickets. The money remaining after the fees are paid goes to the owner.

But police can seize a vehicle before it is auctioned as part of a criminal forfeiture case provided a judge approves it, but Madero said the car disappeared too quickly.

“It would have taken months for a judge to approve it,” he said.

City Department of Transportation spokeswoman Adrienne Barnes said the truck was taken off the auction list by the police department.

Baltimore police spokesman Sterling Clifford declined to comment.

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