A Memphis towing operation has violated anti-racketeering laws, alleges a civil suit filed by three trucking companies.  -  HDT graphic

A Memphis towing operation has violated anti-racketeering laws, alleges a civil suit filed by three trucking companies.

HDT graphic

Three trucking companies have filed a $5 million racketeering lawsuit against a Memphis, Tennessee, towing company after months of trying to address its predatory towing practices.

Western Express Inc., MHT Group Inc., and Church Transportation and Logistics filed the civil suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. It accuses A1’s Towing and S-Line Parking (and a number of other related businesses) of preying on commercial truck drivers in violation of the federal anti-racketeering act, RICO.

The suit charges that the defendants “engaged in a conspiratorial enterprise in direct violation of multiple local, state, and federal laws.”

The owner of A1’s Towing & Hauling, Colton Ahmad Cathey, A1’s Towing & Hauling, CAC Operations LLC, A1’s Xclusive LLC, A1’s Car Hauling LLC, A1’s House, A1’s Aplex Memphis, Acord Security, S- Line LLC, S-Line Truck Parking and 1-10 John Does are named as defendants in the case.

The lawsuit alleges that Cathey also owns or manages S-Line Parking and has been operating his towing business with several assumed names.

S-Line, working with the other defendants, the suit alleges, “predatorily lured and entrapped commercial truck drivers and their vehicles” and “through the use of both the threat of and at times the actual use of unlawful force, subsequently proceeded to illegally harass, intimidate, assault, batter, hijack, and/or hold hostage plaintiffs’ vehicles, property, and/or plaintiffs’ employees/agents until plaintiffs paid as ransom to the defendants exorbitant and unlawful ‘debts’ for their release.”

The defendants are also accused of fraud, wire fraud, interfering and violating Tennessee towing statutes and the Tennessee Booting Consumer Protecting Act, and interfering with commerce by threat or violence.

The 56-page filing goes into detail about the defendants’ activities, including specific examples experienced by the plaintiffs.

The Allegations

The suit explains how S-Line contracted with third-party businesses in and around Memphis to provide security and/or “parking services” to fuel/service stations and paid parking lots frequented by commercial truck drivers. S-Line was responsible for collecting payments for paid truck parking at these businesses.

S-Line employees would wait until a truck driver pulled into a service/convenience station, temporarily parked and went inside to make a purchase. While the driver was inside, S-Line would contact Cathey and/or CAC and have them come boot and tow the commercial vehicle.

In addition, S-Line created the appearance of open parking next to major truck stops or convenience stores. Drivers would be tricked into parking in these areas, the suit alleges. S-Line would purposely fail to post the property as private or off-limits for parking, or would post signage that made drivers think if the requested fee was paid, the driver would be allowed to park.

Then S-Line would contact defendants Cathey and CAC to have the truck booted and/or towed from the premises.

On several occasions, employees of the defendants would trap the drivers and their trucks in the lot, using their own vehicles to block in the truck, or even attempting to sabotage or dismantle parts of the truck driver’s vehicle, according to the lasuit.

These employees were often wearing bulletproof vests, guns, and at times even carrying “badges,” and would use intimidation, threats of bodily harm, and at times outright assault and battery, to force the truck driver to allow access to the vehicle so it could be towed, or otherwise pay exorbitant sums of money to escape.

After A1's tactics generated numerous complaints to the local permit office that regulates towing companies, the Memphis Transportation Commission on Nov. 29 suspended A1’s towing permit — for 30 days.

One Trucker's Predatory Towing Story

The suit describes a number of specific examples, such as this one:

On November 14, 2023, a driver for MHT parked at a lot operated by S-Line. Shortly after the driver parked, S-Line contacted Cathey and/or CAC (at the time doing business as A-1’s Towing), to come tow the truck.

Employees of Cathey and CAC put a boot on the truck. When MHT’s driver asked how much it would cost to have the boot removed, he was told they could not remove the boot and that the truck would be towed immediately.

When MHT’s driver then asked how much the tow would cost, he was told they wouldn’t know how much until the truck was in A-1’s Towing’s storage yard.

Armed with weapons and making a point to try to intimidate the driver, the defendants’ employees hooked up their wrecker to the MHT truck.

The driver contacted MHT and was told to remain inside the vehicle and contact the Memphis Police Department. However, because this was on private property, the police said they couldn’t do anything about it.

At that point, MHT purchased a two-day parking pass through S-Line’s electronic payment system and the driver tried to sleep.

Leaving the wrecker hooked to the truck, the suit alleges, the same employees began to continuously honk their horns and “rock” the MHT tractor, “for all intents and purposes, holding both the MHT driver and vehicle hostage.”

MHT’s driver, fearful for his safety, again contacted the Memphis Police. This time the police did come to the scene and ordered the defendants' employees to stop honking and rocking the MHT tractor. But as soon as the police left the scene, the harassment started again.

The following morning, MHT offered to pay $7,500 to get the defendants to release the truck and driver, which was refused, and the defendants tried to extort even more money.

After again reaching out to the Memphis Police and the sheriff’s office, with no luck, the driver then contacted the Tennessee Highway Patrol. When the Highway Patrol officers got there, about half of the armed “A-1’s Towing” employees fled the scene, according to the suit.

The Highway Patrol ordered the remaining employees remove the illegally placed boot from MHT’s vehicle, but they claimed that they had “lost the key.” At this point, the Tennessee Highway Patrol officers permitted MHT to cut off the boot themselves.

Church Transportation and Western Express drivers had similar experiences. Fenn Church, president and CEO of Church Transportation, said he paid nearly $17,500 to get two of his trucks returned last October.

About the author
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Editor and Associate Publisher

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology.

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