A tow-truck driver with a history and a veteran police dispatcher bent city rules to move one Northeast towing company into the fast lane in the lucrative, rough-and-tumble business of clearing Philadelphia's wrecks, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Authorities allege that Dorian Parsley, a 911 dispatcher for 16 years, raked in kickbacks for tipping off favored tow truck operators to locations of fender-benders and disabled vehicles reported to the city's call center.
In exchange, the drivers paid her up to $200 a week between February 2011 and December 2013 for advance notice of wrecks before official calls were placed to the next towing company up on the city's rotating list.
That list, implemented in 2011, was designed to fairly distribute business among Philadelphia's licensed towers, after a series of high-profile incidents of wreck chasing, price gouging, and violent encounters between tow truck drivers competing over highly lucrative accident removal business. In one 2010 turf dispute, a driver killed a rival by running him down with his truck.
On Friday, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey suspended Parsley for 30 days with intent to dismiss. She did not return calls for comment.
Stepfon Flowers, a 24-year-old driver charged along with Parsley on Thursday, was a frequent player in the towing industry's shadier side, according to Municipal Court records.
Flowers now stands charged with federal counts of conspiracy, bribery, and honest-services fraud in connection with his work with K&B Auto Body, a Northeast Philadelphia garage.
Within the last three years, he has twice faced state charges of theft, forgery, and receiving stolen property tied to towing for another company.
In one instance, police accused him of effectively stealing the car of a pregnant woman who had been injured and hospitalized after a wreck, by forging a towing agreement and taking her vehicle to an auto garage against her wishes.
Prosecutors ultimately dropped that case and another a year earlier because the complaining parties failed to show up to court.
Gregory Pagano, Flowers' lawyer in the current federal case, did not immediately return calls for comment Friday.
K&B owner William Cheeseman, 42, of Delran, and another of the garage's drivers - Chad Harris, 22 - also face federal charges for paying bribes to Parsley.
A man who answered the phone at the shop Friday would not identify himself and said no one would be available to respond to the allegations against the business' employees.