$500,000 bail in tow case

Vincent Cardinalli Sr., left.

A San Jose judge set bail at $500,000 Friday afternoon for a
local tow truck operator who stands accused of defrauding hundreds
of motorists in local small claims courts.
A San Jose judge set bail at $500,000 Friday afternoon for a local tow truck operator who stands accused of defrauding hundreds of motorists in local small claims courts.

Defense attorneys for Vincent Cardinalli, Sr., 65, his son Paul Greer, 31 – formerly Vincent Cardinalli, Jr., and two other family members met with Deputy District Attorney Dale Lohman at the Hall of Justice in San Jose for Cardinalli’s bail hearing and to set the date for the group’s preliminary hearing.

They settled on Monday, Aug. 18 in Department 24 to begin a preliminary hearing that could take up to six weeks, a process that has been postponed several times due to the sheer amount of paperwork to sift through, Lohman said.

Collectively, the group faces 169 felony charges and one misdemeanor charge since their arrests last June.

Like many who claim Cardinalli and Greer defrauded them, Hollister business owner Efreen Gonzalez struggled with the court in the summer of 2006 to explain his situation. He could not afford to have his bank account attached over a lawsuit he never had a chance to fight, he said. After all, no one told him his car was towed, no one told him it was sold and no one told him he’d been sued by the towing company for storage and legal fees.

Despite his pleas, Gonzalez lost the case and had nearly $4,000 drained from his bank account.

“This is the United States, where everything goes by the law,” said Gonzalez, 37, a father of three who moved from Jalisco, Mexico, 20 years ago. “I don’t think the law worked in my case.”

Gonzalez is one of hundreds of unsuspecting motorist dragged into court by Cardinalli and Greer. A six-month Gilroy Dispatch investigation of the duo uncovered a litany of questionable business practices and legal maneuvers.

The charges stem from hundreds of lawsuits filed by Cardinalli and Greer in hopes of collecting towing and storage fees for their defunct towing businesses. Cardinalli’s A&R Towing operated out of Hollister under a number of different names until about 2004, the same year Greer’s B&C Towing, of Clovis, was fired by the California Highway Patrol for what it deemed business practices bordering on “criminal.”

Until recently, process server Jeffrey Horan faced similar charges for his involvement. He pleaded no contest and was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to cheat and defraud and six counts of perjury, Lohman said.

Before a June 6 court appearance, Cardinalli faced a potential third strike felony, which could have landed him in prison for life. He was being held in a Santa Clara County jail without bail. The previous two strikes involved felony arson convictions from the 1970s. However, one of the arson strikes was dismissed, prompting the June 27 bail hearing.

“It’s not that we couldn’t prove one,” Lohman said. “(The office of the district attorney) just decided to exercise discretion.”

At the hearing, she pushed for a high bail on the premise that Cardinalli poses a danger to the community, she said. After he posted bail following his first arrest last June, he continued to commit crimes similar to the ones he had been arrested for in the first place, Lohman said. He was taken into custody a second time in February when prosecutors unearthed his previous two felony convictions.