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AG Horne Files Suit Against Phoenix Towing Company over Consumer Rip-Offs

PHOENIX (Tuesday, May 8, 2012) -- A Phoenix towing company is accused of multiple consumer fraud violations after an Attorney General’s Office sting operation shows the company fraudulently charging a customer for repairs that were not actually made, Attorney General Tom Horne said today. 

The Attorney General’s Office has filed suit in Maricopa County Superior Court alleging that Sun Valley Towing, LLC, has engaged in a pattern of defrauding consumers through multiple repair scams. The lawsuit was served on the Defendants late last week. 

“The defendants in this case have a history of questionable consumer practices,” Horne said. “The video taken by our office clearly shows a technician correctly diagnosing a mechanical problem yet claiming that the problem is much more serious and expensive. We will continue to pursue these types of cases to send a message to any potential scammers that the next customer they try to defraud may be in fact be an agent from the Attorney General’s Office, which, if it deters them, will make everyone’s life better.” 

According to documents filed in Superior Court, Sun Valley Towing located at 1354 S. 39th Ave. in Phoenix has been the subject of repeated consumer complaints. They include: shoddy repair work, leaving vehicles in the shop for up to several months without repair, threatening customers who inquired about the status of repairs, delaying or not paying refunds, failing to honor warranties and other alleged violations of the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act (A.R.S. §§ 44-1521 et seq). 

In the sting operation conducted by the Attorney General’s Office, an automotive repair expert verified the working condition of a vehicle and after parking in a west Phoenix shopping center parking lot with an undercover Attorney General’s agent, the expert shut off the vehicle’s inertia fuel cutoff switch. 

Sun Valley Towing was called and the vehicle was towed to the Sun Valley repair shop while the undercover agent returned to her office. While in the shop, a mechanic correctly ascertained the problem and reset the inertia fuel cutoff switch. A few moments later, the undercover agent was called and Tim Kunselman, the shop owner, asked for, and received authorization to repair the fuel system even though his employee had just corrected the problem. 

Later that afternoon, shop owner Tim Kunselman informed the agent that the vehicle’s fuel pump had been damaged and repair costs would be $340.00. In addition, Mr. Kunselman asked for payment in cash. After the repairs were made, the agent asked for the old fuel pump but was told it was smashed in ten pieces and could not be provided. 

The suit asks for a permanent injunction prohibiting Sun Valley from engaging in auto repair, tow operations, and for restitution of $10,000.00 for each violation of the Consumer Fraud Act. It is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Rebecca Salisbury.

** A copy of the sting operation video is attached. 

** Video clip narrative: 
The Attorney General’s automotive expert intentionally activated the inertia fuel shutoff switch causing a button located at the top of the switch to spring up from its normal down position. When the inertia fuel shutoff switch is activated, it shuts off the power supply to the fuel pump which, in turn, causes the vehicle’s engine to shut off due to lack of fuel. 

After the vehicle was towed to Sun Valley Towing, a male wearing a gray work shirt with orange reflective striping opened the trunk of the vehicle and with his left hand reached toward the inertia fuel shutoff switch located along the trunk wall on the passenger side of the vehicle. He reset the inertia fuel shutoff switch to normal operating position by pushing down on the reset button, thus restoring power to the fuel pump.

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