A Victoria tow truck company owner is at serious risk of permanently losing his business license after numerous complaints and investigations found him misleading and overcharging people.
In a report to be presented to Victoria council Thursday (Oct. 7), city staff recommend that councillors revoke the license of I-Tow Group and its owner John Mueller.
The most recent issues with Mueller’s business began in 2019 when the city received three separate complaints about I-Tow, each relating to city bylaw violations.
In the first instance, the complainant was unable to retrieve their vehicle because I-Tow didn’t have an employee available. In the second two instances, both at a Store Street parking lot, the drivers had no idea where their vehicles had been taken or how much they were being charged, as I-Tow had failed to post relevant signage. All three people were charged excess fees, according to the city’s bylaw department.
As a result of the complaints, police and bylaw officers conducted joint surveillance in December 2019 and found the tow truck business had violated city bylaws 13 times in one day.
Mueller attended court to face the violations and pleaded guilty to five of them in April 2021. The provincial court ordered him to take a number of steps, including bettering I-Tow’s parking lot signage, properly marking its vehicles, and paying fines to the city.
To verify compliance with the orders, city bylaw officers began an investigation in July of this year. Immediately, they found inadequate signage and improperly labeled tow trucks. When bylaw reached out to Mueller to conduct a business inspection, he informed them he had moved spaces to 760 Queens Ave., a site where zoning does not allow towing. After notifying Mueller they would be coming by his new location for an inspection, bylaw found no one at the site. Mueller referred them to his lawyer and claimed harassment in a subsequent phone call, according to the city staff report.
Later in the month, Victoria police were called to the Pandora Avenue McDonald’s restaurant for a dispute between an I-Tow employee and a vehicle driver over a charge. Officers found five different I-Tow signs in the parking lot, three of which listed different business addresses and none of which had the new Queens Avenue one or contained a schedule of fees. The tow truck on site was marked with “VSS”, not “I-Tow”, and listed an inaccurate phone number.
As a result, the manager of bylaw services temporarily suspended Mueller’s businesses license on July 29. He is due in court in March 2022 to face 14 new municipal bylaw charges.
A council vote of at least two-thirds is required Thursday for Mueller’s license to be permanently revoked.
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