LAG Towed into Court
Leo Alfred Glodzik, III, owner of LAG Towing, the city’s exclusive towing contractor, was arraigned before Magistrate Rick Cronauer, District 11-1-01, on Friday, May 31st. The criminal complaint filed by the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office that same day shows Glodzik being charged with two violations of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, Title 18: one felony count of theft of movable property, under § 3921, and one misdemeanor count of theft from a motor vehicle, under § 3934.
While exiting magisterial court Glodzik was accompanied by his attorney, Joseph F. Sklarosky, Sr., who stopped briefly to offer comments to the press asserting, “These charges are bogus and will be defeated in court.”
According to Luzerne County Detective Lieutenant Christopher Lynch’s affidavit, an FBI sting operation employed a member of the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations, “detailing” him to the FBI Safe Streets Task Force as he posed undercover as head of a regional drug task force. This task force officer, or, TFO, arranged for a car to be towed by LAG containing $2,100 in cash in the ash tray, which evidence would need to be seized by law enforcement and filed in the course of a typical drug-related confiscation. Detective Lynch’s affidavit states that upon receipt of the Cadillac on January 29th, Glodzik proceeded to remove the cash from the vehicle, place it “in his own pants pocket,” and then distribute $1,100 to the undercover officer.
Assistant District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce told reporters, “We’re very confident in the facts of this case.” When asked about attorney Sklarosky’s claim that the charges are “bogus,” Sanguedolce responded, “Well, he will get his day in court to try to show a jury that, in fact, they are.” When asked whether any city officials had been interviewed in connection with the investigation, Sanguedolce said that no officials were interviewed regarding the particular charges filed earlier in the day, clarifying, “To be clear, these charges, actually, do not arise out of anything to do with the city of Wilkes-Barre or any theft of any automobile.”
Sanguedolce was also asked whether records were utilized which had been subpoenaed in February from the Wilkes-Barre Police Department pertaining to vehicles which had been towed by LAG. He answered in the negative. Did sustained public criticism of the tower prompt the investigation? The Assistant DA replied that any suggestion that this was the case was “completely false. We brought this prosecution because the facts fit the crime. [There] was no pressure put on us to make an arrest sooner rather than later. As you can see, the actual incident occurred in January, so the investigation continued until this time, until we were prepared and confident that we had the information to bring the charges.”
City investigation completed: LAG contract indefinitely suspended
Mayor Tom Leighton held a 12:30 pm press conference following Glodzik’s arraignment hearing in which he announced the completion of the city’s investigation of the embattled tower and the suspension of the city’s towing contract with LAG. Leighton immediately appointed Falzone Towing to act as the city’s temporary towing contractor. In the press release Leighton described the suspension as “permanent in nature.”
Reading from a prepared statement the mayor would only answer questions concerning the transition of contracted towing responsibilities to Falzone’s. Claiming that the administration had been conducting a thorough review of LAG’s contract and of complaints against LAG since its investigation began last fall, Leighton stated, “Today, I’m here to announce that the city investigation is complete, and I’m announcing that the towing contract with LAG Towing is suspended effective immediately. . . . It is warranted due to contract violations determined by the city’s investigation as well as charges filed by the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office.” The administration refused to specify the alleged contract violations.
Leighton continued, “It is important to note that no Wilkes-Barre City police officer, city employee, or administration official had been implicated in the alleged actions of Mr. Glodzik. The city has been fully cooperative with outside investigations and provided hundreds of documents related to the contract under review. I am disgusted and disappointed by the actions of one of our city contractors.” Leighton then defended the administration’s investigation progress, despite numerous public allegations of foot-dragging.
Leighton stated that “Falzone will sign a contract, and pay a fee,” but wouldn’t elaborate on the terms of the contract or the contracted fee. When asked if the contract would be put out for bid, Leighton responded with “not necessarily.” Leighton also answered the Gazette’s query about precisely when Falzone knew they would be the new city tower with “about an hour ago.”
Paul Falzone, owner of Falzone Towing Service on North Sherman Street, said, “The administration called me late this morning, and asked if we could fill in as the city’s interim tower.” Falzone told the Independent Gazette that he was grateful that the administration has such confidence in them. When asked if any special preparations were needed in order to accommodate such a contract Falzone replied, “No. With our size and business capacity, we could accommodate the city without a problem.”
Falzone also responded to our questions with regards to their towing or storage fees by saying, “Our fees are all posted at our office, and you or any reporter, or public, for that matter, is more than welcome to come look at them at any time.” He also added that Falzone Towing’s fees are likely on the low end of the industry standard, but are in no way affected by industry standards. “We don’t raise our prices just because our competitors do,” Falzone said. The Gazette also asked if, or when, the contract becomes permanent, would Falzone be interested in the contract? Falzone answered, “We will cross that bridge if, or when, we come to it.”
Mark Robbins weighs in
Many of the allegations concerning LAG came to light as a result of Mark Robbins’ persistent investigations over a two-year period after having his car towed by LAG. Robbins had this to say: “Thank you, Wilkes-Barre Police Sergeant Bill Harden and Wilkes-Barre Police Officers Kenneth Jones and Dana Cope. If not for your volcanic tempers and unprofessionalism … a probe would never have been started by me. … I am relieved that no more citizens will suffer as a result [of LAG’s actions].”