LOWER MANHATTAN, New York (WABC) -- Prosecutors indicted and charged 17 individuals and 10 companies for an unlawful monopoly in the vast New York City towing industry. The alleged enterprise is accused of an elaborate series of schemes involving shell companies, insurance fraud, bid rigging and other crimes.
"We are announcing the indictment of a group of individuals and companies that maintained a violent, corrupt and nearly complete monopoly on New York City's towing industry," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
The group faces multiple charges of conspiracy, corruption and working in concert, prosecutors claim, to control a vast network. "Led by Dan Steininger, [they] worked in concert to maintain and enforce a fraudulent monopoly," said Vance.
Prosecutors revealed that when a collision occurs, the NYPD uses a rotating roster of tow companies to ensure equal and fair work. Prosecutors claim that was not the case involving these individuals and companies led by Steininger.
"And stacked that roster with companies that he controlled. The companies had different names. The companies had different logos and listed different owners, when in fact they were different fronts and shell companies for the Steininger enterprise," said Vance.
But Steininger's defense attorney James Kousouros countered, "Just saying it doesn't mean you can prove it. And we will do our best to show they can't prove it."
Karen Steininger, Daniel's sister, is also charged with corruption, restraint of trade and monopoly among other counts.
"There are a lot of charges. A lot of indictments. And until we sort through it it will be a difficult endeavor to make an assessment," said Arthur Trakas, Karen Steininger's defense attorney.
Prosecutors charge the enterprise, which ran from June of 2015 to December of 2017, sometimes resorted to violence against competitors and even damaging competitors' tow trucks. Vance also said one defendant, Carl Fava, was brought in to settle disputes.
"Fava was essentially The Godfather who made the decisions. 'You are going to take this. You are going to take that.' And that's how it's resolved," Vance said.
The enterprise is also accused of insurance fraud through several auto body shops and tax fraud and money laundering. Authorities are filing a civil suit against the companies and individuals to collect the money that was fraudulently obtained.