Updated 12/06/2012 05:46 PM
Tow truck business is raided
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown says law enforcement agencies have been investigating tow truck bribery allegations. That investigation sparked a raid by federal agents at Jim Mazz Auto Wednesday.
Attorney Steve Cohen, who represents Jim Mazz Auto, says he and his client welcome the investigation. Among other allegations, he says tow truck companies have been asked to bribe police in order to pick up vehicles. But he says Jim Mazz tow truck drivers have not taken part in corrupt practices for years, something Brown says he will not tolerate.
"Any illegal behavior by anyone will not be tolerated by this government and we will take aggressive action to root out any illegal behavior by anyone," Brown said.
A police source tells YNN federal agents are questioning members of the Buffalo Police Department about the bribery accusations.
Federal agents raided a local tow truck company Wednesday afternoon. Allegations are now being raised about corruption in the Buffalo Police Department. YNN's Ryan Whalen reports.
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As federal agents searched the premises of Jim Mazz Auto and Collision Sales, Attorney Steve Cohen told anyone who would listen that he and his client welcomed the investigation.
"We told them you don't need to break down any doors," Cohen said. "We'll open up any drawers you want open. We'll give you passwords to any computers you want to look into. You can have access to all the paperwork you want. You can take a look at it. My client's clean."
The FBI could not confirm what it seized Wednesday, only that it got what it wanted.
Cohen said the raid happened only after he warned the city he was naming the parking enforcement commissioner in a complaint.
"The only time anything gets done is when I called Kevin Helfer corrupt," he said. "Now he thinks this is going to frighten us by turning the agencies on. We're thrilled some attention is finally being paid."
"This has come down from the federal government," Common Council President Rich Fontana, "This is an investigation from Bill Hochul's office. I don't think Mr. Hochul concerns himself regarding any tips or calls regarding the city."
Cohen said his client plans to name specific Buffalo Police officers that allowed companies to tow vehicles in exchange for bribes, if he is asked by the FBI.
"If bribes were being offered, hopefully those officers come forward and say that they were approached with a bribe and then in that case they would not be charged," Fontana said. "However, if they accepted the bribe, it would be problematic for an officer."
Fontana defended the mayor's administration, police commissioner and parking enforcement.
"If Mr. Cohen wants to put up smoke screens, I think he should worry about getting his client vindicated, rather than taking shots at city officials," he said. "I don't think that's the way to go."
"This is going to be a torpedo that circles around and hits the ship that fired it," Cohen said. "Now that everyone is on this, they're going to see what parking enforcements been up to."
Cohen said Jim Mazz tow truck drivers haven't been involved in bribes in years; well past the statute of limitations.