PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- If you need a tow from AAA, a local towing company will likely be coming your way.
Until recently, Al Bouvy's Allegheny Road Service in North Braddock was one of them.
KDKA's Andy Sheehan: "You basically have been forced out?"
Bouvy: "I've been forced out."
Bouvy and some other local operators that KDKA has spoken to are being replaced by Advantage Towing and Angelo's Towing, two companies from California, brought here from San Diego by AAA's new Regional Vice President Michael Hoshaw, who is a California transplant.
"Big companies really don't have to have an allegiance to anybody; but in my heart, yeah, I feel that should have been done. We've have been loyal, dedicated service providers to AAA for many years," said Bouvy.
Advantage Towing has been operating out of a warehouse building in Carnegie for the past four weeks. Regional Manager Sam Shuibat said AAA invited him to relocate from California to improve response times.
"Instead of you being on the freeway for two and half hours, I'll be there in 15 minutes. Because time is money. Time is life," said Shuibat.
But both Advantage and Angelo's leave behind a trail of controversy.
Court records show that Angelo's owner, Nash Habib, was charged in charged in 1998 with insurance fraud and operating a chop shop, but pleaded to lesser misdemeanors. Then, in 2001, he was convicted of felony assault.
Advantage has been accused of trying to buy influence. Before coming to Pittsburgh from California, the San Diego Ethics Commission fined Advantage Towing a total of $128,000 for illegal campaign contributions.
The commission levied the fine against Advantage owner, Ayman Arekat, in 2015, finding that he forced employees to contribute the maximum $500 a piece to three San Diego mayoral candidates.
KDKA's Andy Sheehan: "What about the concerns about Advantage Towing. They were fined $128,000 by the San Diego Ethics Commission?"
Shuibat: "I have absolutely no comments with that. My job as a manager and an owner is to do my job."
"I will tell you that all of our contractors go through a background check," said Herman Jenkins, of AAA Pittsburgh spokesperson.
Jenkins wouldn't comment on specific concerns, but denied any special relationship between Hoshaw and the companies, other than that they had done a good job for AAA in San Diego and could do the same here.
"Our number one goal is to provide the best service for our members," Jenkins said.
After 13 years with AAA, Bouvy has laid off his 17 employees, surrendered his tow trucks to the bank and contacted a bankruptcy attorney. When KDKA arrived at Bouvy's business, two men from Angelo's were inquiring about buying or leasing his now vacant garage.
Sheehan: "You going to sell to these guys?"
Bouvy: "I need the money. If they're going to pay me what they need to pay me. What am I going to do?
Sheehan: "You don't feel good about it?"
Bouvy: "I don't feel good at all."
for more features.