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Owner and operator of Pittsburgh towing service accused of inflating costs

Tow operator charged with insurance fraud, theft by deception and unlawful talking
Tow operator charged with insurance fraud, theft by deception and unlawful talking 03:41

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The owner and operator of a Pittsburgh towing service is in the Allegheny County Jail.

Arriving at District Justice James Hanley's courtroom on Thursday, Vince Fannick had a jacket draped over his head. 

But inside, the judge lowered the boom. Allegheny County police and the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office officially charged him with 117 counts of insurance fraud, theft by deception and unlawful talking. 

He is accused of defrauding 27 victims, including Emily Burton, who KDKA-TV spoke with after her accident in November 2023. Fannick towed her damaged BMW seven-tenths of a mile to his Strip District garage and wouldn't release it until she or her insurance company paid $11,780.

KDKA Investigates found a dozen other invoices where Fannick detailed his towing charges and a host of other fees: recovery fees, gate fees, administrative fees and storage fees. In its affidavit, county police detailed costs between $9,000 and $12,000 in 27 individual invoices submitted to insurance companies, totaling a staggering $298,945 in payments.

Costs that insurance companies say are eventually passed on to consumers in the form of higher rates and premiums. In a statement, Attorney General Michelle Henry said Fannick preyed on people in vulnerable situations and compounded their trauma. 

"Predatory, deceptive business practices will not be tolerated in the Commonwealth, and business owners who harm consumers to line their pockets will be held accountable," Henry said. 

Fannick had nothing to say after Friday's hearing. In past reports, he only spoke on the phone, saying he's done nothing wrong.

"It's justified what I'm doing," he said in November 2023. "I do everything by the book. Everything legal. Tow trucks have gone through the roof, the gas, the insurance and how about the risk? This is not cheap. Am I not supposed to be paid?"

Since there is no set limit on what a tower can charge and the industry is largely unregulated, his attorney, Pat Thomassey, questions whether the charges will stick. 

"I'm not saying maybe it's not overcharging. But it's like anything else. You go to one dentist, they charge you $100. You go to the next dentist, they charge you $1,000. Is somebody a criminal crime there? I don't know," he said.

Fannick is in jail in lieu of $28,000 bail. Hanley has set a preliminary hearing for early May.

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