|William Salazar (shot about 10 years ago)|
Owner of Royal Coaches in Baldwin Park
In determining how steeped in criminal history the company is, one needs to first look at whether the owners have a criminal history. In open court, two witnesses heard Salazar's attorney state that his criminal history has been expunged. That means, that Salazar had a criminal past, but asked the court to hide it from public view. This called for further investigation.
According to the Los Angeles Superior Court website, a William Salazar born on April 30, 1961 had at least three criminal convictions. According to one database, William Salazar of Royal Coaches also has the same birthday. The court website states that on May 18, 1989 a William Salazar was convicted of possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana. On May 15, 1990 - he was convicted of driving under the influence (ironic, given that his company towed so many drunk drivers' cars away). And on November 3, 1994 - revealing a potential propensity for violence - Salazar was also convicted of the felony of brandishing a deadly weapon. (Given all the circumstantial evidence, I would predict that probability is almost 99% that these two people are the same people, but only DNA or fingerprints can verify absolutely.)
Does anyone find it strange that a company contracted out to the police cannot be a criminal, especially when police towing companies are primarily in the business of nabbing drunk drivers? In others words, it makes sense that someone working for a police, contractor or otherwise, needs to have a clean record, right? That's the reason that the Baldwin Park Municipal Code 100.090 states that the Chief of Police needs to do a criminal background check and report back to the council on whether the company is fit for serving the police.
And we all know how the Chief of Baldwin Park, Michael Taylor is. Besides having a contract that states that he can only be fired if he commits a felony like rape or murder, Mr. Taylor also overlooked the fraud conviction of a business owner in Rukli. Inc, after he received a $10,000 donation to run for public office in San Bernardino County. And what Mr. Taylor doesn't want you to know, but Legal Lens discovered, is that Taylor received an injection of $7,700 from a secret funding source - which was most likely backed by Salazar. Think about this: Does that give incentive to do a thorough background check on the Salazars? I think not.
Going back to the law, Baldwin Park's Municipal Code Section 100.100 even has a provision that states that the city could terminate the towing company's contract if "any person having any ownership interest in that Official Police Tow Service . . . violates any federal, state or local law[.]"
But here, it's clear that Salazar, by being the owner of Coaches, has an ownership interest, and the Los Angeles Superior Court says he may have violated state law. Not only has he not been fired and has been in business for at least 37 years but is now asking for an early renewal of his contract. In September of 2010, even the California Highway Patrol (who has now allegedly terminated a part of its service contract with Coaches) barred a Coaches's driver from working for them because he had a criminal conviction. (It makes you wonder, does anyone working for the City of Baldwin Park have a clean record.)
If the CHP did it, how come such common sense doesn't exist in Baldwin Park?
Always follow the money.
For about 10 years, the unholy trinity of a private contracted tow company, Coaches; along with Baldwin Park's Police Department; and the greedy Mayor Lozano and the councillors devised the ultimate scheme to turn metal into gold. The only catch would be that they would have to steal the property of others to do it. And because no conversion can take place without energy, they took from the blood, sweat, and tears of the poorest of the poor: the undocumented. Within five years, this unholy alliance reaped $12 million by impounding and towing at least 15,247 cars.* (These are record breaking figures for the entire United States, if not the world.)
The towing scam worked like this. The Baldwin Park Police would target undocumented drivers at DUI checkpoints, by targeting routes and selecting times which would net the most number of laborers returning home. At the time, the law permitted (but did not require) that the car of an undocumented driver could be impounded for 30 days. (The law has since changed and been also declared illegal in practice.) The police department would seize the driver's car and tow and impound it for 30 days. The fees would be in the thousands of dollars, and the owner would lose the car at auction.
Although a scheme is clearly immoral, recently, the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeal has declared it illegal and unconstitutional. On June 21, 2017, the high court held that cities can no longer hold a car for 30 days, unless it has some evidence to believe that releasing the car would cause danger to the public. Holding a car any longer than necessary violated the rights of the owner of the vehicle, under our Fourth Amendment Right to be free from an unreasonable seizure.
In simple English - the police cannot deprive an owner of his property - just because the government says that the owners are dangerous for society without having more proof. (Incidentally, governments have historically confiscated property by targeting a vulnerable class and accusing them of being dangerous. Take these three instance. (1) The Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity to plunder the pagan temples. (2) King Henry VIII declared himself the head of the church to confiscate English Catholic property. (3) And more recently, the Nazis enacted laws to label Jews as dangerous, which enabled the Third Reich to loot from them. Really; what Baldwin Park did is one of the oldest tricks in the book.)
The high court wasn't the only house of justice that condemned the scheme. The Los Angeles Superior Court, which has jurisdiction over Baldwin Park, specifically condemned the city for its brazenness and its incredible greed. On May 20, 2017, the Civil Grand jury found that Baldwin Park was the worst offender of the towing scheme in Los Angeles County. The grand jury found that Baldwin Park's fee of $931 for a one-day-impound was excessive. The next highest fee was in Beverly Hills for $445. I guess the impoverished East Los Angeles City of Baldwin Park thinks it's land is worth twice as much as Beverly Hills to justify such fees.
It also found that Baldwin Park had no records of Due Process in the form of impound hearings. (I requested an impound hearing for a family of one of the boxing kids, and it took three hours for the police department to sort out how to conduct one. Fortunately, I retrieved the car back for the family.)
And finally the civil grand jury report states that Baldwin Park has no written policy on preventing corruption. The report was specifically concerned as to whether relatives of public officials could also buy impounded cars.
But stealing vehicles wasn't enough. The Salazar brothers were also in the habit of taking valuables from these stolen vehicles, alleging to the rightful owners that they were missing, and selling those valuables. (See pictures below as proof.) Rafael, a mechanic and a victim of Baldwin Park's impound scheme - told me personally that he only wanted to retrieve his tool box to work. When he went to retrieve it, Coaches prohibited individuals from retrieving their items after the car was impounded. Rafael never retrieved his tool box. Eventually, a sting revealed that victims would also lose their cell phones and stereos to private buyers, before the car was sold at auction.
But given the background of the Salazars and Chief of Police - Michael Taylor - does it surprise you?
Although much has been discovered, one large piece of the puzzle is still missing: Where did the profits go? Coaches used to pay Baldwin Park a franchise fee every month with a check made out to the "Baldwin Park Franchise Fund". Incidentally, the Grand Jury reported that of all the tow companies surveyed in LA County - Coaches gave the most money per year to a city, totaling $625,583 in a year (page 21).
To hide their nefarious affair, the city failed to answer numerous public records request for the bank statements of franchise fund. The Legal Lens believes that the bank statements will show how much and who received a cut of this money. In the end, the City Attorney - Robert Tafoya stated that no such bank account existed. Given his reputation for deception (like misrepresenting my signature in court), this is not probable and not likely. People generally don't write out checks to ghost bank account names. More investigation must be done on this secret bank account - which Baldwin Park is doing everything it can to cover this up.
So, this isn't really just about a contract being illegally renewed. The big picture is looking clearer. The entire scam may show how organized crime (commonly known as the mafia or mob) may be controlling the City of Baldwin Park. This case shows that organized crime groups, under the guise of private enterprises, can grease politicians to make laws that support them. They can pay off police captains and chiefs with graft to not charge them or their employees. Then they can make a huge profit off an illegal or harmful enterprise, usually through illegality and violence; in this case, it was towing. With those gold ole days over, it looks like marijuana and sham construction contracts will take its place.
Unfortunately, their profits come at our costs. By taking our hard earned labor, in the form of taxes, these players are eradicating our civilized, free, and trustworthy democracy. (And in effect, is it possible that this problem may turn into a national security risk**.) We expect the police to provide a service, which is to protect and serve us. We expect our politicians to enact laws for the benefit of the most people. We're not paying the police and our politicians to focus their time and energy to target the most vulnerable amongst us to turn a profit. But here, with regard to the towing scandal, the misery and hardship increased for a number of these families. In fact, one of my first cases as a law student dealt with a family that lost the car they needed to drive their cancer stricken daughter to the doctors**. Usually what comes next is a scheme to steal our property.
In my view, there are two steps in breaking the illicit cycle of organized crime and corrupt politics. One, transparency is required, but when the courts are not enforcing our public records law, this is not possible. Two, all of us, must do what we can to no longer tolerate this kind of system. That is why famous political exile and Noble Prize laureate, Aleksander Solzhenitsyn said, "Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice."
*Finding discovered by receiving records in a protracted lawsuit - Casas v. City of Baldwin Park (filed 2013).
**The organized crime expert Loretta Napoleoni found that profits made from illegal goods and services end up funding foreign and rebellious political parties.
***That was one of the first cases that showed me what a sorry state we were in in Los Angeles - supposedly heralded as a thriving first world city.
[Update: On February 21, 2018, the Baldwin Park City Council voted to renew Royal Coaches Contract without request for proposal.
It also looks like Baldwin Park adopted a new ordinance, where the City no longer has to go out for big when they decide that they want the current tow company.
The ordinance gives the duties of RFP and doing a criminal background check from the Chief of Police to the City Manager. (Guess Taylor doesn't want to keep having his hands dirtied.]
|Sting reveals Coaches selling cell phones|
|Sting reveals Coaches selling stereos|
|Sting reveals coaches selling radios|
|Coaches stealing electricity|