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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingMay 23 - May 29, 2018
Gerardo Martinez Jr. of Decatur, Illinois, faces a charge for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon for hitting repo agent Ronald Dodson on May 19. Photo credit:

Police: Man Backed [b]Car into Repo Agent

A Decatur, Illinois, man drove his truck into a worker who was trying to repossess his vehicle, police say.

Officers say Gerardo Martinez Jr., 29, got into the vehicle when the repossession crew approached his house, just before 3 a.m., May 19. A sworn statement says the repo agent, Ronald Dodson, yelled at Martinez not to back up.

That's when police say Martinez moved the vehicle while Dodson was behind it and hit him.

Police say Martinez fled the scene in the vehicle. They caught up to him and arrested him later that morning in the parking lot of a Popeye's restaurant.

Martinez faces a charge for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. His bond was set at $25,000 in Macon County.


As Loan Defaults Rise, Repos Skyrocket

The repossession industry is booming at an unexpected time. Although the U.S. economy recently entered its second-longest-ever period of expansion, the auto-loan delinquency rate last year reached its highest point since 2012, driven by souring subprime auto loans.

And the repo industry has noticed the change.

"So much of America is just a heartbeat away from a repossession—even good people, decent people who aren't deadbeats," said Patrick Altes, a veteran agent in Daytona Beach, Florida. "It seems like a different environment than it's ever been."

Business has more than doubled since 2014, according to Relentless Recovery, the largest repo company in Ohio. Last year, the company repossessed more than 25,500 vehicles—including tractor-trailers and riding lawn mowers.

Nationwide, repo agents described a broadening base of people struggling to stay current on their auto loans. In the old days, agents picked up mostly entry-level cars like Chevy Chevettes and Dodge Neons. Agents today get assignments for high-end brands such as Mercedes-Benz.

"Now it's all over the place," said Altes, who is also the former head of the trade group Time Finance Adjusters.

The only cars still rarely seen are Subarus and Volvos—the unflashy favorites of the urbane upper middle class.

More than 4 percent of auto loans were at least 90 days late at the end of 2017—the highest rate in five years. That number jumps to almost 10 percent for subprime auto loans alone, according to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Loans now carry higher balances and longer terms, stretching out the timeline for trouble to appear.

The rate of auto loan write-offs—which includes repos—is trending higher but remains below its 2009 peak, according to Equifax numbers.


Man Guilty of Abduction, [b]Unauthorized Use

Thomas Lee, 58, of Vernon Hill, Virginia, was found guilty after a jury trial of abduction and felony unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, May 18.

The jury found him not guilty of a misdemeanor brandishing a firearm.

Evidence was presented that two individuals appeared on Lee's property to repossess the vehicle in foreclosure. After being shown the repossession documentation, Lee pushed past the repo agent, entered the cab of the tow truck and drove more than a mile from his home with a passenger in the vehicle.

He abandoned the tow truck and his captive passenger on the side of the road and was ultimately found in nearby bushes by a law enforcement officer using a tracking dog.

At the sentencing phase of the trial, the jury heard evidence that Lee had been incarcerated for approximately five months prior to trial.

The jury imposed a $400 fine for the abduction and a $100 fine for unauthorized use.


DRN to Help in Recall Notification

Digital Recognition Network recently announced it is using its automated license plate recognition technology to help automakers notify owners of vehicles under safety recalls.

By utilizing ALPR, DRN said it can take a "hotlist" of affected vehicles, and when one of the company's ALPR-equipped partner vehicles finds license plates that match vehicles on that list, it can attach the recall notice directly to the vehicle.

Additionally, the hotlists can be provided to law enforcement officers to notify affected owners during traffic spots, for example.

"(I)t is a logical extension for automobile manufacturers in the sense that their captive finance divisions have been using ALPR technology to repossess vehicles for years," said DRN executive chairman/founder Todd Hodnett. "In this instance, rather than recovering the vehicle we are providing an important public safety function by hopefully preventing the future loss of additional lives."


Woman Indicted for [b]Running Over Agent

A woman accused of assaulting a man trying to repossess her vehicle was indicted by a Taylor County, Texas, grand jury, May 17.

Jana Beth Rocha, 52, was indicted on one count of aggravated assault stemming from the Aug. 9 incident at a nursing home parking lot.

According to court documents, the victim was trying to repossess a 2016 Honda SUV from Rocha when he realized she'd left her purse in the vehicle.

The victim told Rocha to remove and collect her belongings, but she told the victim "(Expletive) you, you're not going to take my car," the documents said.

With the driver's side door open, the victim was standing in the way of it closing while Rocha sat in the driver's seat, the documents said. She then put the vehicle in reverse, then in drive, and drove away, striking the victim's leg.

According to the documents, the victim said he believed she ran him over on purpose.

According to Taylor County Jail records, Rocha was booked into custody on April 26 stemming from this incident and two other unrelated charges. She is part of a court-supervised release program, the records indicate.


DRN Recognizes [b]Nine Top Providers

Digital Recognition Network presented top providers and affiliate awards during the North American Repossession Summit to honor organizations that have demonstrated excellence and leadership in the repossession industry.

"Each of these award winners helps to set the standard for the industry, and some have been honored by DRN multiple times, a testament to their continued commitment to excellence," said Andy Cameron, SVP of FinTech at DRN. "We look forward to continued partnership with them and an even more successful year ahead."

American Recovery Service was named Provider of the Year with a high number of total repossession assignments and successful repossessions.

DRN also honored providers Primeritus Financial Services and ALS Resolvion with Gold Provider of the Year Awards. Professional Auto Recovery was named the National Affiliate of the Year.

Other affiliate award winners included: Solid Solutions 24/7, Top Gun Western Region 2018; Relentless Recovery, Top Gun Midwest Region 2018; Specialized Recovery, Top Gun Southern Region 2018; International Recovery Systems, Top Gun Eastern Region 2018; and Towing San Diego, Big Picture Award.

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