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Shady-Sounding Towing Company Lands City Contract, As It Has Since 1989

By Mae Rice in News on Feb 15, 2016 8:36PM

A Chicago car getting towed in a snowstorm (photo via Paul Kehrer on Flickr)

The same towing company that has handled city towing needs for the past 26 years will continue to do so. United Road Towing was the only bidder on this year’s city towing contract, the first one handled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration, according to the Sun-Times.

Two other companies showed interest in the contract, but didn’t go beyond that, according to a Sun-Times review of city records.

This wouldn’t be much of a story except that United Road Towing has always been, for lack of a better term, kind of shady.

They’ve held onto the city towing contract since 1989, through a name-change—they were once called Environmental Auto Removal—and a 2003 FBI raid, in which the company’s records were seized and thought to show connections to an interstate car-theft ring, according to the Sun-Times.

Even the way the towing company landed its first city contract was a bit odd. The company got the contract just days after it came into existence, the Tribune noted in 2004, likely due to the founders’ ties to then-Mayor Richard M. Daley and his allies.

This has an especially strange ring to it because during 2010 bidding for Chicago's towing contract, the city turned down a bid from Tegsco—a competitor of United Road Towing—because the company didn’t have enough experience to handle Chicago’s “volume,” the Sun-Times reports.

That’s not to mention a 2004 Sun-Times report, which revealed that the city sold 70,000 cars a year to the towing company for the price of scrap metal, regardless of the cars' condition. The towing company then sold the cars at auction. Meanwhile, the cars’ owners got no cut of the money changing hands, and still had to pay towing fees.

Luckily Chicago isn't known for back-room deals or corruption or anything, so we can all be sure this whole towing thing is totally above board!