URGENT U.P. Breaking News Bulletin: – 4-9-18 – 10:33 p.m. ET –
Cronyism, favoritism, nepotism and corruption in the U.P. wrecker business
Superior Service Towing of Houghton/Hancock is getting a sweet deal from local and state law enforcement who are allegedly sending extra business his way and ignoring the “list wrecker” rotating system designed for equality and fairness – Including Michigan State Police, the Michigan Tech University Department of Public Safety, Houghton County Sheriff’s Department – and some cities/villages
By Greg Peterson
U.P. Breaking News
Owner, News Director
Editor’s note – During the course of our investigation new heard from lots of people – and some said the U.P. problem goes beyond Houghton County, however the wrecker company owners who are being cheated are afraid to speak out. Some of those who reached out became sources for this story – but several were afraid to speak out publicly for fear of further financial retaliation by law enforcement.
(Houghton, MI) – The north version of the ‘good ole boy’ network permeates some U.P. law enforcement agencies and seems to be driving who gets the monster share of the lucrative wrecker business across the Upper Peninsula – including the Michigan State Police, Michigan Tech Public Safety and numerous police and sheriff’s departments.
U.P. 911 dispatcher centers across the U.P. operate on a “list wrecker” system that is popular across the country – and theoretically gives a pretty fair shake to all wrecker companies. The catch is – it has to be run fairly and not allow some companies to constantly be skipping to the top of the list – or ignoring the list rotation.
The U.P. wrecker business is somewhat limited but means big bucks because of the countless car-deer crashes and the constant deaths of older cars – that are popular in these low-income and poverty times.
Another “ching-ching” are the notorious six month winters that serve up countless rollovers and wreckers are constantly needed to pull vehicles out of the snowbank.
So far, it appears that Houghton County should get the U.P. award for cronyism, favoritism, nepotism and corruption in the U.P. wrecker business.
Now you may say – “big deal” – its only towing fees – but not so.
A recent example of the huge profits saw a U.P. state senator proclaimed his innocence in Jan 2018 after his name came up in FBI wiretaps involving a multimillion dollar towing empire in SE Michigan – a probe that has sent many to jail including cops and could ensnare lawmakers who did favors for the company.
Mentioned in FBI wiretaps was a downstate lawmaker and Michigan State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, who chairs the powerful Senate Transportation Committee.
Federal prosecutors say that the daughter of the empire owner was allowed to write an amendment to the state’s transportation funding bill that ensured her dad’s company got huge state contracts worth in the tens of millions (scroll down to read more or links to the excellent coverage by the Detroit newspapers).
Upper Peninsula lawmaker is part of a criminal investigation into kick backs and more in the wrecker business that is rife with corruption – because some dirty cops can steer a lot of money/business to their favorite wrecker service.
In Houghton County, there are six wrecker companies that participate in a “list wrecker” method that is supposed to be impartial and ensure prompt towing. Three towing companies for the northern half of Houghton County and three businesses to cover the southern half (listed below).
However, it appears the list wrecker system strongly favors one company – with a surprisingly open display of cronyism, nepotism and favoritism.
We cannot say its criminal dirty because it is impossible to prove kickbacks without the power of subpoena or an FBI undercover investigation with wiretaps and secretly recorded conversations.
White collar crime across the U.P. is rampant because there are no checks and balances. And the criminals know it. The FBI Office in Marquette has never done a white collar probe because of low staffing and its few agents are very busy with tribal felony issues like domestic violence.
While listening to the police radio closely in Houghton County, its noticeable that business is steered toward Superior Service Towing. In some instances, the officer tells the dispatcher to send Superior Service Towing before arriving on the scene and with little or no knowledge about the crash.
Superior Service Towing of Houghton, MI gets the lion’s share of the list wrecker towing business – and provided tune-ups and maintenance services for the Michigan State Police Calumet Post, the Houghton County Sheriff’s Department and Michigan Tech Police and others.
In fact, the Michigan State Police Post Commander in Calumet has been made aware of this problem several times but nothing has been done to fix the problem, multiple sources told U.P. Breaking News.
For example … Superior Service Towing family members work for the MSP and MTU Police (see below),
The wife of Superior’s owner is a dispatcher for the MTU Police. In addition, another relative works for the Michigan State Police.
The “list wrecker” system in U.P. counties – its basically an agreement between law enforcement and wrecker companies. Just like it sounds, its a rotating list of qualified wrecker companies – and its supposed to be strictly adhered to.
When done fairly and operates on a level playing field, it helps the orderly removal of wrecked and stuck vehicles – while not show financial favoritism. The companies must meet certain requirements like 24-hour two service.
Wrecker companies, cops and “the list” may not sound sexy – but it’s worth a truck load of cash annually for participating companies.
In an unrelated case, a state lawmaker from Escanaba, MI has denied he did anything illegal in a S.E. Michigan towing industry bribery scandal involving payoffs from a towing industry king – whose daughter was allowed to write an amendment to the Michigan Department of Transportation budget that guaranteed their company won a huge multimillion dollar state contract.
Chair of the powerful Michigan Senate Transportation Committee, Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, denies he did anything improper – despite his name coming up on FBI wiretaps in the influence-peddling and bribery investigation of towing titan Gasper Fiore.
The Detroit Free Press reports that Sen. Casperon “possibly” helped Fiore.
The amendment was not needed – and “Fiore was told nearly a month in advance that he would get the contract when it was awarded, which he did,” according to FBI wiretap evidence obtained by the Detroit Free Press.
The newspaper added:
“Along the way, Fiore, who for years dominated the towing industry in southeastern Michigan, appeared to have gotten help from then state Rep. Brian Banks, D-Detroit, and, possibly, state Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, the wiretapped conversations show.”
The FBI probe has led to 18 people being arrested – including two downstate township trustees and numerous police officers including former Detroit Police Deputy Chief Celia Washington.
So far federal prosecutors have won about 12 convictions.
Casperson told the Detroit Free Press that he “met Fiore at a ‘meet and greet’ in the Detroit area and asked for his support when running for Congress in 2016.”
Casperson told the Free Press “he later met in his Senate office with Gasper Fiore’s daughter Jennifer, hearing concerns about the state’s handling of a $2-million-per-year contract the Fiores held with the Michigan Department of Transportation.”
While entering a guilty plea in December 2017, the 57-year-old Fiore “admitted to paying then-Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds bribes in exchange for help in getting a towing contract.”
FBI wiretaps in a wide-ranging federal investigators into influence peddling, bribery and racketeering that has already taken down Detroit police officers and others.
Steve Richard Therrian, owner of Superior Service Towing
Jamie Lynn Therrian, Michigan Tech University police dispatcher
Kristen Julia Therrian of Laurium, MI; Graduated on January 2014 from Michigan State Police school
Lt. Steve Therrian, MDOC
Superior Service Towing
47082 State Highway M-26
Houghton, MI 49931
409 Michigan Street
Dave’s BP Super Service
112 Front Street
Hancock, MI 49930
56720 Station Drive
56724 6th Street
Calumet, MI 49913-1948
730 Lake Linden Ave
Calumet, MI 49913
Coach Works Body Shop & Northwind Divers
56413 Liberty Street
Calumet, MI 49913