Preliminary court hearing for tow case drags on

Vincent Cardinalli, 67

With two weeks of a lengthy preliminary hearing behind them, the
family facing scores of felony counts stemming from a tow-and-sue
scam are looking at another four to six weeks from behind the
defense table, prosecutors said.
With two weeks of a lengthy preliminary hearing behind them, the family facing scores of felony counts stemming from a tow-and-sue scam are looking at another four to six weeks from behind the defense table, prosecutors said.

Vincent Cardinalli, his family – son Paul Greer, formerly Vincent Cardinalli Jr., daughter Rosemary Ball and son-in-law Michael Ball – face 169 felony counts of perjury, conspiracy, forgery and attempted grand theft the family faces stem from more than 2,000 small claims lawsuits Cardinalli and Greer filed in San Benito and Santa Clara counties, according to court documents. The defendants, their lawyers and Deputy District Attorney Dale Lohman are taking a breather this week. The preliminary hearing was expected to be four to six weeks, but with Cardinalli representing himself against the charges, the length of the hearing has been “hard to predict,” Lohman said.

The second week of proceedings was consumed by testimony detailing how the family allegedly scammed unsuspecting motorists out of thousands of dollars in towing, storage and lien sale fees on vehicles the victims never owned, or had sold years before the cars were towed. Victims dominated the witness stand and more are on the way, Lohman said.

“We’re just plugging away until we make it through all the victims,” she said.

When defendants tried to fight back, father and son often zeroed in on technicalities and advanced frivolous arguments, testified Greg Adler, an attorney for Copart – an auto auction company that was the target of such lawsuits.

Though each victim told a unique story, the common denominator was that none received a notice of pending lien sale, a requirement of lien sales written into the California Civil Code.

“A red flag is when that many people who had current addresses on file with the (Department of Motor Vehicles) all claim they didn’t get notice,” Lohman said.

The grand theft felony charges stem from the family’s “attempt to steal money” by filing lawsuits that were based on false documents, she said. “The lawsuits were based on fraud, on lies.”

Many victims first received notice of their predicament only after a deficiency judgment was made against them, she said. Several found out when Cardinalli and Greer obtained court orders to drain their bank accounts.

The hearing will wrap up with Commissioner Gregory Saldivar, the small claims commissioner of choice for the father and son duo, Adler said. Greer’s and Cardinalli’s preference to have their cases heard by Saldivar, and no one else, set off “red flags,” Adler said.

Saldivar, typically ruled in favor of the plaintiffs – Greer and Cardinalli – Adler pointed out. Other judges and commissioners often ruled in favor of the defendants Greer and Cardinalli sued. In addition, in cases that were initially presided over by Saldivar, then later appealed to the Superior Court by the small claims defendants, the higher court disagreed with Saldivar and ruled in favor of the defendants in all but one of the court files Adler reviewed.

Adler said he stopped in to watch the small claims court in action and was “disturbed” by what he observed.

The preliminary hearing will resume 9 a.m. Monday in Department 32 of the Hall of Justice in San Jose.

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