EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 20, 2011

Police: Tow firm owner, employee stole parts off stolen car

By Jill Harmacinski

LAWRENCE — The owner of a city towing company and a former employee are accused of stealing aftermarket and custom-made parts off a stolen car that had been towed at the police department's request.

M&W Towing of Medford Street may lose its city towing privileges as a result of the criminal investigation.

Arraignments are scheduled today, police said.

Wilson Calixto, 44, M&W owner, and Dennis Fritschy, 41, a former employee, are charged with impeding and obstructing a police investigation. Calixto is also charged with receiving stolen property valued under $250 and Fritschy is also charged with larceny of property valued under $250.

Calixto and Fritschy are accused of stealing chrome pedals and a matching shifter knob, a chrome "Transformers" grill emblem and high intensity discharge headlamps from a white 1997 Honda Civic towed, per police order, to M&W's site.

A local couple reported the Honda stolen on Sept. 2 from parking lot outside their Berkeley Street home. The following day, Lawrence police called them after the Honda was recovered in South Lawrence.

The car was towed to M&W, where police planned to dust it for fingerprints. A large handprint was visible on a car window.

Soon after, the car owner went to M&W to get his 18-month-old son's car seat. The chrome pedals, grill ornaments and high-intensity lights were still on the car. But several weeks later, when the owner again checked on the car, the parts were gone.

When Calixto was called to complain about the missing parts, he "was more concerned with the storage fees due to him," according to a report by Sgt. Michael Simard.

Simard, a member of the department's auto fraud task force, noted "similar allegations against M&W have been lodged in the past."

When questioned by police about the missing parts, Calixto gave the officers the Transformers grill emblem and admitted it belonged on the Honda. He then accused Fritschy of stealing the parts, saying he knew nothing about the theft until after it happened. However, Calixto said he did not confront Fritschy when the learned of the theft, police said.

Calixto declined comment for this story and referred questions to his lawyer, John Brien. Brien could not be reached for comment.

In an interview yesterday, Fritschy said he was suspended and eventually fired from M&W. He admitted to removing the pedals from the Honda, adding they cost $21 and can be purchased at local automotive stores.

"They are tiny pedals, with 10 screws," he explained.

He took the pedals "because I thought the car was going to salvage. I took them. I admitted it ... I told the sergeant."

But Fritschy denied trying to block or stall the police investigation, resulting in an additional criminal charge against him.

"I don't understand that," he said. "There's an awful lot of people that go in and out of that garage."

While police investigated, Simard had the Honda towed and held for safekeeping to Coady's, a Marston Street tow company, according to his report.

Various towing companies, including M&W and Coady's, have rotating week-long tow privileges with the city. During their respective weeks, all tows requested by police are handled by that company. The cars are often held and stored by the tow companies until they can processed for evidence.

Police Chief John Romero noted the Honda in question was evidence in a police investigation.

"It should not have been touched," Romero said.

To date, Romero has not formally recommended that M&W be stripped of city towing privileges. That recommendation could be filed today, however, after Calixto and Fritschy's arraignments, he said.

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