Federal charges for tow truck owners in ‘mechanic’s lien’ scheme

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — According to federal prosecutors, an Indianapolis towing company owner along with a Wisconsin towing company owner face up to 20 years in prison for an elaborate scheme that defrauded car owners across the country from 2013 to 2016.

An investigation by the FBI, Indiana State Police and Department of Justice’s U.S. Trustee Program alleges that Brian Fenner, 44, of Indianapolis and Dennis Birkley, 59, of Wisconsin, and his company AMI Asset Management, conspired to wash vehicle titles of bank liens and then sell them for personal profit.

According to authorities, the scheme involved defrauding vulnerable people who were upside down in their car loans and exploiting Indiana’s “mechanic’s lien” law.

The indictment explains that Fenner would offer to pay bankruptcy fees for people in exchange for their cars and would tow the cars to his lot in Indianapolis.  He then charged towing and storage fees on paper, which he never intended to collect on, police say.

Fenner used those supposed fees to get a “mechanic’s lien” on the cars, which allow Indiana mechanics to effectively auction customers’ cars to recoup money if the customer defaults on payment.

Instead of auctioning the cars, however, Fenner would allow Birkley’s company to “win” the auctions and take possession of the cars. Birkley would then sell or auction the vehicles at pure profit that he would split with Fenner, leaving the banks and the cars’ original owners hung with the debt.

FOX59 had previously reported on Fenner’s businesses being raided during this investigation in 2016.

“This serves as a reminder to potential victims of similar scams that offers that sound too good to be true usually have a nexus to a criminal act,” police said.

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