SPOKANE, Wash. – KHQ is investigating a bizarre car theft story unlike any we’ve seen come into our newsroom before. A vehicle was stolen in North Spokane, and the accused thief used his AAA membership to actually carry out the theft.
“(The thief) asked, how did you find me? Uh, you used your AAA membership buddy,” said victim Phil Johnson.
Sometimes reality really is stranger than fiction.
"It is a fascinating story right,” he said. “Absolutely fascinating.”
When Phil got a call that his beloved bright blue BMW was abruptly gone, apparently missing, he rushed to the North Spokane neighborhood where he had last seen it. He did a little detective work himself and asked a nearby business if he could see some security footage. It captured a tow truck arriving and taking his vehicle.
“There is my car right there (in the footage) … a tow truck pulls up, picks it up and goes,” he said.
Phil then began working the phones. He started calling local tow companies who even remotely matched the grainy description captured in the security video. Eventually, he got some answers, but said it took multiple calls. Once he proved to that company that he is the rightful owner of the vehicle they towed, he learned they were just the middle man. They had been electronically dispatched by AAA.
"I think AAA should be held accountable,” he said.
The tow company involved says they had no reason to question the dispatch, and responded to the job like normal. It’s a routine call they say get up to 50 times a day. Because the customer didn’t reach out to them directly, and they were instead put on it via AAA, they didn’t ask questions of the man requesting the tow.
Once Phil provided documentation proving the BMW was his, the tow company involved handed over the drop-off address. It was a little far out for Phil, but a friend of his was closer. That friend drove by and saw Phil’s vehicle parked in the suspect’s driveway. The friend told Phil he confronted the thief as he was taking the vehicle apart.
“That was at the point when my friend was making him put my car back together,” Phil said while referencing photos from the scene. “(He is a) good friend.”
SPD officers showed up too, and confirm they arrested 35-year-old Blaine M. Peterson. They say he admitted to the ploy of using a tow truck to carry out the crime.
So what about Phil’s beloved vehicle?
“It's kind of torn apart,” he said. “There were interior pieces moved around. I have a rare interior, of course they were going to take that too. I was able to retrieve all the parts, thankfully.”
It could have been worse, but Phil is still angry that this happened at all. He asked our ‘Help Me Hayley’ to try to get some answers. She reached out to AAA and they released the following statement.
AAA can confirm this member did request that tow. Once our service provider confirmed his membership number and ID, they towed the vehicle to the requested address. Once this situation was brought to our attention, we immediately investigated and terminated that membership.
KHQ asked AAA if immediate changes will be made to their policy to prevent this from happening again. We are waiting for their response.
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