Regarding the specific incident involving Mr. Robert Schlesinger’s 2003 Acura, I would like to provide you with a detailed account of what transpired. On December 8, 2023, a Sheriff’s Service Specialist (SSS) responded to Wildflower Ct regarding a resident’s report of a white Acura parked on the street for over seven days in the guest spot in front of their home. The SSS located the vehicle, placed a 72-hour tag on the vehicle, and marked the street to indicate the vehicle’s tire placement. This procedure is in accordance with our Department’s protocols.
On December 22, 2023, the SSS returned to the location and found the vehicle still parked in the spot and within the previously marked boundaries. Consequently, the vehicle was towed from the location.
Mr. Schlesinger, the owner of the Acura, spoke to a deputy that evening and explained that his vehicle was unlawfully towed because it was on a private roadway. The deputy informed Mr. Schlesinger that he would have to come to the station to obtain a vehicle release form required by the tow company to retrieve his car from the impound. Schlesinger arrived at the Rancho station that night but refused to sign the release of vehicle liability waiver and left without the vehicle release form.
On December 27, 2023, Schlesinger returned to the station and provided still photos taken from surveillance video, which he believed showed his vehicle had been moved after the 72-hour tag was placed. The owner was then given the vehicle release form, the fee was waived, and storage fees were billed to the Rancho station.
Regarding your other broader allegations and questions, the Sheriff’s Department staff follows the California impound and towing laws set by the California Vehicle Code, along with the Sheriff’s Department policies and procedures. If there are allegations of misconduct, the Department has a complaint procedure in place, which the Department will further investigate. A registered owner can request a storage/impound hearing at each patrol station if our staff tows a vehicle. Additionally, the Sheriff’s Department has a longstanding policy prohibiting employees from purchasing vehicles towed by the Department.
Public Information Officer
Public Affairs Division
San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department
From: SBC Sentinel <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, December 29, 2023 2:44 PM
To: Rodriguez, Mara K. <mkrodriguez@SBCSD.ORG>
Subject: Vehicle Impounding In Rancho Cucamonga
This is Mark Gutglueck with the San Bernardino County Sentinel.
I am writing about the department’s towing of Robert Schlesinger’s 2003 Acura from in front of his home in Hamilton Ranch on December 22.
It is alleged that this represents the tip of an iceberg in which deputies in your department are caught up in what is tantamount to a vehicle theft ring. That illicit activity is said to involve nice vehicles ending up in the possession of deputies or deputies’ family members after they are towed, in some cases legally, in some cases illegally and in other cases on spurious grounds. What is alleged, essentially, is that deputies see cars they covet for themselves or family members, they use some element of city code or traffic code or ordinances available to them to have the car impounded, such that in a percentage of the cases the owners do not have the wherewithal to recover the cars because of the combined fines and impound fees, whereupon the deputies in question obtain the cars by paying the impound fees and tow charges.
In Mr. Schlesinger’s case, his car was towed for allegedly not having been moved for 72 hours. He was able to marshal evidence, in the form of his home’s own security video footage and a neighbor’s security video footage that the space from which the car had been towed was occupied in the proceeding 72 hours by both the car in question and another vehicle, rendering the version of events signed off on by the deputy who authorized the tow inoperative once the department was confronted with the evidence. Prior to that, the department insisted that the impounding of the car was legitimate.
It is said that while the theft of vehicles in this fashion is general throughout your department, it is particularly ingrained at the Rancho Cucamonga Station, where deputies routinely patrol the parking lot at the West Valley Courthouse for cars with expired licenses or missing tags and have them towed, to the enrichment of the companies on the Rancho Cucamonga towing rotation. The grateful tow company owners are thus rendered amenable to assisting in the shakedown of car owners whose cars are targeted by the deputies working there for eventual acquisition. It is said that this situation has existed for a generation, stretching back to the time Sheriff Tidwell was in office and running through the tenures of sheriffs Williams, Penrod, Hoops, McMahon and now Sheriff Dicus. It is stated that both the department’s command echelon and the sheriffs themselves have been aware of the acute problem in Rancho Cucamonga in this regard.
An apparant calculation by the department and the deputies is that few, if any, of those car owners victimized in this way have the sophistication or temerity to stand up to the department and its mendacious deputies. They generally go along with paying the fine and impound fees and do so as quickly as possible to recover their vehicles, as the impound fees compound with each passing day. Your department makes no effort, at least immediately, to inform those whose cars have been impounded that they have been taken by the department or where they are. This can result – and has resulted – in car owners going days or weeks without knowing where their vehicles are, such that when they do find out that they have been impounded rather than stolen they have accumulated with the tow company considerable impound storage costs which accrue by the day. In this way, some individuals or households do not have the financial means to recover the vehicles, at which point the tow company is at liberty to dispose of the vehicle in whatever way it deems fit. In some cases, the Sentinel is informed, the very deputies who authorized the towing of those vehicles have acquired the cars. In at least some of those cases, the cars turn up as the transportation means for members of those deputies’ families, the Sentinel has been told.
What can you say of these reports? What was your department doing in Hamilton Ranch, which is a private community with its own security service, on December 22? Is it true that deputies with the department, particularly ones in Rancho Cucamonga, are shaking down vehicle owners to get their cars? How aware of this circumstance is the department’s command structure, to your knowledge? Has the department made any effort to get to the bottom of this? Is the department concerned with the damage exposure of this might do to the department’s reputation? Have any deputies been disciplined over this sort of activity?
Does the department grant tow franchises or otherwise put tow companies on its tow rotation because the ownership of those companies facilitates the eventual acquisition of vehicles towed at the request of the department’s personnel by members of the department and/or their family members? What standards/protocol goes into the selection of companies to be put on the department’s tow rotation? Earlier this year, the City of Rancho Cucamonga’s management insisted on excusing itself from participating in the selection of the companies to be on the city’s tow rotation, leaving that up to the department. Did this reflect city officials’ lack of ease with the larcenous relationship the department’s deputies have developed with some of those tow companies?
In the case involving Mr. Schlesinger, why did the department tow his car? Why did the department seek, initially to justify that action by falsely claiming the car had not been moved for 72 hours? Why did the department engage in misrepresentations about the grounds for seizing Mr. Schlesinger’s vehicle? Why did the department at first insist on Mr. Schlesinger having to sign a waiver absolving the deputy, the department and the county from any responsibility for its action, in order for Mr. Schlesinger to get his car returned to him? Why, ultimately, did the department determine that Mr. Schlesinger’s vehicle should be returned to him? Why, ultimately, did the department determine that Mr. Schlesinger’s vehicle should be returned to him without his having to sign the waiver? Why, ultimately, did the department determine that Mr. Schlesinger’s vehicle should be returned to him without his having to pay the impound fees and fine? At what point did the department recognize that the stated grounds for seizing Mr. Schlesinger’s vehicle was spurious? At what point did the department recognize that Mr. Schlesinger – as an attorney and former college professor – possessed a degree of gravitas and wielded sufficient credibility to be able to controvert the misrepresentations at least one of your department’s deputies had engaged in? Now that Mr. Schlesinger has marshaled proof to controvert the statements and contentions of at least one of your department’s deputies, what is to be done with regard to that deputy or deputies? Is he or are they to be disciplined? If so, how? Is he or are they to be terminated? Is no action to correct or address or redress what occurred going to be taken? If not, why not?
Would Sheriff Dicus care to comment on this matter and the potential it has to sully the reputation of his department, in particular the Rancho Cucamonga Station, and what action he deems appropriate to redress this circumstance?
As is usual, Ms. Rodriguez, I am fighting a deadline, and I appreciate any response you can provide me before I set pen to paper.
…Mark Gutglueck (951) 567 1936