In Methuen, car theft is not a crime, if your name is Ron Parrino, Chairman of the City’s Licensing Board.
When you bring your car to a mechanic, under Massachusetts Laws, they have a lien on your vehicle until you pay for the repairs. If you don’t pay, they hold your vehicle, and they have to take you to Court. They cannot just sell or junk your car. Towing liens aren’t much different. These types of liens are in every state, they are commonly referred to as an artisan lien, and date back to early colonial law.
On January 22, 2018, Cheri Malomo reached out to us for help. Her vehicle was involved in an accident in Lawrence, MA on October 30, 2017. The Lawrence Police responded, and the on call towing contractor for that day was Valley Towing.
Ms. Malomo stated to us that her vehicle, a 2012 Nissan, had sustained heavy front end damage, however Cheri still owed on the loan.
The reason she was contacting us, was because she was having trouble getting her car released from Valley Towing, and found our Website and Facebook Fanpage online. She had read the horrible reviews on Google and Yelp as well as the stories of Chris and David who claimed Valley Towing stole their cars.
Apparently her insurer made an effort to retrieve her car the day after the accident, but Valley Towing refused to release the vehicle. The insurer then made daily attempts to contact Valley Towing by email for several before discontinuing their efforts.
Cheri and Chris share similar stories. Chris was involved in an auto accident in Methuen in December of 2016. Methuen Police called Valley Towing, and the car ended up in their impound lot. After the towing and storage was paid by the insurer, Chris went to retrieve his car but it had already been “junked”.
Since the owner of Valley Towing is Ron Parrino, Chairman of Methuen’s Licensing board, and a long time local politician, who has held police towing contracts with the cities of Lawrence and Methuen for decades, Chris believed Parrino and the Police were violating his civil rights and filed a Federal Lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boston in the summer of 2017.
Not long after filing his lawsuit, it was assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper, the same judge that tried Whitey Bulger. Chris filed a Motion for a Temporary Restraing Order, preventing Parrino from destroying the vehicle, a move that was purely symbolic since the car had already been junked.
The motion produced a favorable Order on the TRO from Judge Casper, reaffirming a prior case from 1982 which Chris cited in his Motion. Exchange Street Auto Body, Inc. v. Stockton, 1982 Mass. App. Div. 221 (Mass. Dist. Ct. App. 1982) In that case, a contractor who towed for Holliston, MA Police, was attempting to sell a vehicle towed by them from an accident scene, after the owner never replied to the certified mail, even though the owner came to inquire about the charges in person. The judge in that case ruled that once the garage made contact with the vehicle’s owner, this was in essence, consent to continue storage, and their only option was to proceed to Court.
The Methuen City Attorney, Richard D’Agostino, was present for the hearing
in Federal Court with Chris, and received a copy of the Judges Order as well. In that order, the Judge made it clear, Valley Towing has two options to proceed under after a Police Ordered Tow.
If the owner has made contact, that is a “defacto consent to continue storage” of the vehicle and Valley’s only option at that point would be to proceed to the District or Superior Court to enforce the lien by filing a civil lawsuit.
We have previously written a great article detailing the process required to pursue a Massachusetts Secured Repairman’s lien – M.G.L. ch. 255, § 25. A Massachusetts Federal Bankruptcy Judge explains the procedures Valley Towing should have followed with Cheri and Chris’s cars.
So did the Methuen City Attorney not advise the Police that the procedure Valley followed was wrong? The reason we pose this question is because the Methuen Police still use Valley Towing and here we are again with the same exact problem. Perhaps it’s time the Police get some legal advice before this turns into another Federal Civil Rights case over Police Policy which could cost Methuen taxpayers thousands of dollars.
Ron Parrino admited he junked the car. No Court Order, and no advertisement in the newspaper. The car still has an active Title and Lien in Cheri’s name with Wells Fargo as the lien holder.
Who took a 2012 Nissan with no title ? Frams chop-shop we suppose. They took Chris’s car and David’s truck from Valley without any paperwork. You cannot sell a 2012 vehicle in Mass without a title and you certainly can’t just junk one. Unless you’re Ron Parrino that is. He can’t claim he didn’t know the law however, because Judge Casper spelled it out to him clearly, in her ruling against him, only four months before Cheri’s car got towed in.
In the Police report Parrino claims Cheri didn’t try to contact Valley. However he contradicts himself and also says she did. Either way she clearly tried to get her car out of there more than once. Ron Parrino lied to the Police about David’s truck, and we are pretty sure he is lying here. In any event, the insurer tried getting the car the day after the accident, and when they were unsuccessful after several weeks, they finally stopped. Cheri continued trying to contact Valley through email before ultimately reporting her car stolen to the Methuen Police.
Here is an email exchange Cheri had with Valley Towing on February 8, 2018, where they threatened to call her boss if she didn’t take their phone call. She insisted on email communications to maintain a record of the conversations. They then called her work a handful of times harassing her, according to Cheri.
The Methuen Police told her it’s a civil matter and she can hire a private investigator. Just read the report for yourself.