Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jury Decides OR Towing Company Operator Went Too Far

Here's The Oregonian story:

Former tow-truck driver Ryan Patrick Joynt tried to argue that he took cars from people's homes in legitimate business dealings.

A jury, however, didn't believe him. And now the 27-year-old man -- who ran Set Towing with his girlfriend Anna Alonzo and quickly gained notoriety among car owners in the Portland area -- is in the county jail awaiting sentencing.

After a seven-day trial, a Multnomah County Circuit Court jury found Joynt guilty of 14 felonies, including trafficking in stolen vehicles, theft and forgery involving three cars. He faces two similar charges in Washington County, where he is scheduled for trial this month.

"It's not too far to take the leap from legitimate towing to illegal towing," deputy district attorney Chuck Mickley told jurors during closing arguments. "The defendant has crossed that line."

Joynt didn't testify, but his attorney, Des Connall, argued that, if anything, the car owners' disputes were civil not criminal matters.

In the first case, prosecutor Chuck Mickley contended that Joynt paid a Gresham man, Robert John Lee Jr., $500 to hand over his friend's truck in January 2008. Lee had said that he chanced across Alonzo, learned that she worked at Set Towing and said he'd like to work out a deal to hand over his friend's 2006 Dodge Ram truck. The friend, a long-haul trucker who was often gone, was behind on his payments and, Lee said, owed him money.

Mickley said Joynt was the one who hammered out the deal before driving off with the truck. Mickley argued that Joynt had the truck stripped of parts or stripped it himself, and then forged paperwork to show the company had towed it from Medford.

With massive towing and storage fees purportedly owed, Joynt tried to gain ownership of the truck by filing a lien and saying the truck was worth less than $2,500 when its actual value was close to $30,000, Mickley said.

Alonzo was convicted of theft and lying to cover up the thievery with forged paperwork and was sentenced in June to a little more than a year in prison.

In the second case, Mickley argued that Joynt had a Set Towing driver tow another man's 1998 Dodge truck, which was parked along the road next to his home at the Sandy Mobile Villa, in August 2008. Joynt's defense was that the truck was legitimately towed because it was parked in the grass. But the truck's owner said that wasn't true and that when he tried to get his truck back by calling Set Towing, the man on the other end of the line refused to tell him where his truck was or how much he'd have to pay to get it back.

Police, who were growing more suspicious of the company because of other complaints, got the man's truck back a few days later after serving a search warrant at the tow lot.

In the third case, Mickley said that Joynt stole a 2006 Hummer from a man's driveway. The man had worked out an agreement with a company Joynt created, Empire Wholesale, to use the company's account to buy cars or trucks in an online auction.

The agreement was to pay Joynt $100 per vehicle purchased, but when the man bought the Hummer for his wife for $36,000, Joynt demanded a $9,000 fee, Mickley said. When the man didn't immediately pay up, Joynt, whose company held the title, took the Hummer.

"Literally, the defendant has zero money invested in the Hummer," Mickley said.

Joynt sold it two days later. He claimed that he was acting on the advice of his attorney at the time.

Joynt will be sentenced at a date to be scheduled. Judge Janice Wilson could order probation, but Oregon sentencing guidelines recommend at least 13 months in prison. The prosecutor will likely ask for at least several years more.

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