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Squabble leads to indictments against S.P. tow-company brothers

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Squabble leads to indictments against S.P. tow-company brothers

SOUTH PORTLAND — The part owner of a towing company facing perjury charges vowed Thursday to "aggressively fight" to clear his name.

Vincent Maietta, 55, of 199 Elderberry Way, and his younger brother, Robert Maietta, 48, of 56 Winding Way, were each indicted on one Class C count of perjury last Friday by a Cumberland County grand jury.

The brothers are accused of making false statements during hearings that concluded April 1 about Maietta Towing Company practices. Vincent Maietta said the charges actually stem from a confrontation with South Portland Police Sgt. Todd Barlow after the hearings.

"All I can tell you is the charges against me are ridiculous made up charges that will go nowhere," he said. "He wants to start a war and I won't back down from that.”

The hearing about billing practices began March 25 after a customer Alex Anastasoff complained to the city about a $1,425 towing bill assessed by Maietta Towing for a March 1 job.

It was recessed to allow Barlow to investigate billing records for Maietta Towing and Pleasant Hill Auto Sales & Towing, both Maietta family businesses located on Pleasant Hill Road.

When the hearing resumed April 1, Barlow presented findings accusing Maietta Towing of four other instances of overcharging customers in 45 days. As a result, Maietta Towing was suspended by City Clerk Sue Mooney from doing city-commissioned towing work until Aug. 31.

"I have no issue with the hearing and the way the city handled the towing incident. It was an unfortunate situation and we took full responsibility," Vincent Maietta said.

In a complaint to police and a protection from harassment order filed April 2 in Cumberland County Unified Court, the Maiettas allege Barlow threatened them in a profanity-laced tirade witnessed by Mooney and lawyer William Dale, who was acting as South Portland Corporation Council at the hearing.

South Portland Police Sgt. Steve Webster said the complaint led to an internal affairs investigation. From there, police forwarded statements made at the hearing by the Maiettas to Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson.

“It is not the South Portland Police that charges anybody, it is the State of Maine,” Webster said. He declined to discuss findings of the internal probe, citing personnel issues.

An indictment is a finding that enough evidence exists for prosecution. It is not a finding of guilt. Class C charges carry a maximum prison term of five years.

The Maiettas are scheduled to make their first appearance in Cumberland County Unified Court on July 3. The trial is expected to occur around Sept. 23, according to court records.

In the temporary protection order filed April 2 by Robert Maietta he said he asked to speak to Barlow and was rebuffed with threats.

"He is very unstable and should not be carrying a gun,” Robert Maietta said of Barlow.

In a corroborating witness statement, Vincent Maiettta said he was also targeted by Barlow's invective because he questioned the additional findings by Barlow.

“I also believe he is capable of doing other questionable things that will affect me and my family in a negative way,” Vincent Maietta wrote. On April 22, Cumberland County Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz terminated the protection order.

A detailed breakdown of the bill presented to Anastasoff shows he was charged $175 for towing fees, $225 for a second tow truck that was not used, a $275 winch fee, a $100 sweeping fee, $350 for storage and $300 for administrative fees.

The administrative fees were ostensibly for after-hours visits to the Maietta impound lot by Anastasoff to retrieve materials from the truck. In the hearing, he said he made one visit, and was charged for five, and said a radio was stolen from the truck while it was impounded.

In her findings, Mooney said the additional charges were approved by an office manager and stemmed from Anastasoff's claim the radio was stolen.

Mooney said it was unlikely Vincent or Robert Maietta knew of the the fees charged to Anastasoff, and noted Robert Maietta offered a full refund which she also ordered in her conclusions.

Towing companies doing city business by clearing accident scenes and impounding vehicles after an arrest are licensed by the City Clerk's office and subject to a fee schedule as part of Chapter 15 of the city ordinances.

Mooney said Maietta employees violated the fee ordinance – Anastasoff should have been charged a maximum of $190.

If not aware of what occurred with Anastasoff, Mooney said the instances found by Barlow showed the Maiettas showed “only a modest, at best, willingness to be bound by the maximum charge limitations under the ordinance.”

Barlow found four customers were overcharged by a total of $1,060 per Chapter 15 of the City Code governing city-commissioned towing to clear accident scenes or impound vehicles because of an arrest.

The hearing was the first of its type Mooney conducted in her 12 years as city clerk, she said. But it was not the last this spring, as complaints about charges from Arcee LLC, which operates S & R Towing and In Town Towing, led to a two-month suspension for both companies.

In her findings, Mooney said owners Curtis Gleason and Rin Ann admitted to overcharging customers in a total of 11 occasions found by Barlow. The companies will be suspended from doing city-commissioned work until July 31.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.