STUDIO CITY (CBS) — A CBS2 investigation has looked into whether the husband of a high-ranking City of Los Angeles general manager was given preferential treatment from the LAPD after his car was impounded.
Tens of thousands of people get their cars impounded by the LAPD every year, and most have to pay a hefty fine to get it back.
But not one man whose wife happens to work for the city and who has LAPD Chief Charlie Beck's phone number.
When police impounded Maurice Levin's Ford Explorer for expired tags he got it back without paying a dime after his wife, Randi Levin, the general manager of the city's IT department, called Beck.
"Did you receive preferential treatment for getting your car out of impound because your wife essentially works for the mayor?" CBS2 investigative reporter David Goldstein asked Levin.
"Umm...I'm not aware of that," Levin responded.
Officers allegedly saw Levin drive through a red light at Ventura and Coldwater Canyon boulevards in Studio City. When they followed him they found his tags had expired last May and they pulled him over.
According to documents obtained exclusively by CBS2 News the officers wrote Levin "requested a supervisor". When one arrived the sergeant wrote "Mr. Levin would not respond or look at me" and stayed on his cellphone. She said it appeared he "was intentionally delaying the towing of his vehicle". But Levin was issued a ticket for going through the red light, no proof of insurance and no tags.
The car was taken to an official police garage, Archer's Towing, and impounded.
"The car was impounded for no registration or expired registration," said LAPD Captain Paul Snell, who said his officers did the right thing.
Even so, hours later, Snell reversed it.
"I received a call from someone from the chief's office. It wasn't the chief of police, it was a representative from the chief's office that asked that I look at it, the impound," Snell said.
Snell said he decided to release the car from Archer's. Documents CBS2 obtained show the city picked up the $325 towing fee. Snell said he did it because Levin claimed he had paid his registration fee--even though the DMV says the car is not legally registered.
And Snell said his intervention was nothing unusual.
"How many of these decisions have you made this year?" Goldstein said.
"It depends when they come up," Snell said.
"Give me an idea. Last week how many did you do?" Goldstein said.
Snell said he hadn't been involved with any similar situations last week but that he helped someone get out of an impound situation the week before.
But it doesn't end there. According to a field activity report Snell sent an LAPD patrol car to Levin's house to check on his insurance and give him a ride back to the towing company. Levin wasn't home.
"Did he receive preferential treatment?" Goldstein asked.
"In what sense?" Snell said.
"In what sense? In the sense that his wife works for the mayor. That's the sense." Goldstein said.
"Not in my opinion. No," Snell said.
But since we first started asking questions police say Levin paid the towing bill.
Chief Beck also says he did nothing wrong.
"Is that what a normal person can do off the streets -- call the chief?" Goldstein asked Snell.
"Well, actually, if someone does call the chief and gives the information she gave me that is what I would do. I acted the same way I would for anyone else," Snell said.
Tell that to Dani Soule. She paid $600 to get her car out of impound.
"It makes me so angry. So upset. Again, I wish I could just make a phone call. I wish I could call Charlie Beck to have him take care of this," Soule said.
"The message that this sends to people is what? A general manager can call and action is taken? No, the message is that anyone who calls me will get action. Now I will make sure the action is proper," Beck said.
But the question is -- were these actions proper?
Since CBS2 started to ask questions, Chief Beck now says he has launched an investigation to find out.
Randi Levin wouldn't return calls asking for comment.
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