By Gina Martinez
Multiple people, including eight Queens residents, were indicted last Wednesday for their alleged participation in a huge towing scheme that stretched throughout the entire city, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. said.
Vance announced the indictment of 17 individuals and 10 companies, charged for their part in an unlawful monopoly over the New York City towing industry through an elaborate series of schemes involving shell companies, insurance fraud, bid rigging and other crimes.
According to Vance, 44-year-old Hempstead resident Daniel Steininger managed “Steininger Enterprise,” which was made up of several individuals and corporations that worked together to restrict competition for the towing industry in the city.
“If you were involved in a collision between June 2015 and December 2017 and received assistance from a tow company, chances are you were an unwitting customer of an illegal enterprise that dominated New York City’s towing industry until our takedown today,” Vance said. “In order to ensure fair competition and encourage entrepreneurs to set up shop here in the city, we cannot allow this type of systemic fraud and abuse to persist within any industry.”
Prosecutors contend Steininger’s operation restricted competition in the towing industry, fraudulently bought out competitors and their licenses and committed insurance fraud by inflating claims for work done at the participating auto body repair shops. Vance said Steininger and conspirators violated citywide towing industry regulations, including geographic service zones for operators and rotational accident response programs to ensure fair competition.
Steininger is accused of working with Staten Island resident Norman Teitler, 74, who helped him purchase towing companies, including Queens Village-based Southside Collision, as well as Towing Inc. and Authorized Auto Body Inc. in Long Island City. Queens resident Duante Huff, 40, helped Steininger’s shell companies pass inspections even though many of these locations lacked staffing, business records, or any of the other statutory requirements for storing vehicles, the Manhattan DA said.
Tow truck drivers who were part of the Steininger Enterprise also engaged in “chasing” by monitoring police radio transmissions, identifying collision sites, and racing to the incident location to secure jobs ahead of competitors and before a responding NYPD officer could summon a company from the Direct Accident Response Program to the scene, Vance said.
Vance alleged that Steininger hired three Queens brothers — Angelo Mazzio, 53, Salvatore Mazzio, 40, and 49-year-old Michael Mazzio — to control permits for towing operations along multiple highways though out the boroughs.
The indictments are the result of a long-term, joint investigation into illegal conduct and fraud in the towing industry by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Rackets Bureau, NYPD Criminal Enterprise Investigations Section, and DOI.
Steininger and other defendants face money laundering, conspiracy and enterprise corruption charges.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart