December 1, 2005
Clayton, Mo. — A St. Louis towing company operator who already faces a lawsuit by Attorney General Jay Nixon for charging customers exorbitant fees turned himself in today to face felony criminal charges that allege he failed to deliver titles to motor vehicles he sold.
Nixon filed the three counts of unlawful merchandising practices in St. Louis County Circuit Court against Bruce Gales, owner of Galez (GAYLS) Towing and Storage in Wellston. The charges allege that Gales (DOB - 9/5/70) sold three vehicles between February 2003 and October 2005 and in each case knowingly and willfully defrauded the buyers by misrepresenting that he would deliver to them the certificate of ownership, but then failed to do so.
Gales surrendered himself today at the St. Louis County Jail. He was released on $25,000 bond, with the condition that he not sell or tow vehicles.
Unlawful merchandising practices is a class D felony, punishable upon conviction by up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 per count. The charges against the defendant are merely accusations. As in all criminal cases, the defendant is presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty.
Gales is also the defendant in a civil lawsuit filed by Nixon in October 2004, when more than 130 consumers complained that he charged them rates of $600 or more after towing their vehicles and, in at least one instance, charged a fee of $100 merely to allow the owners to retrieve personal items from their towed car. That lawsuit is still pending.
In the civil action filed in St. Louis County, Nixon is seeking full restitution to all consumers and a civil penalty of $1,000 per violation of Missouri's Merchandising Practices Act.
Note to editor: The irregular spelling of the defendant's business, Galez Towing, in paragraph two is correct.