SALINAS (CBS SF/BCN) — Two Salinas-area towing companies face criminal and civil complaints filed by the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office over their predatory practices, the DA’s office announced Tuesday.

The first criminal complaint is against Mark Gunderson for vehicle theft and extortion, according to a news release issued Tuesday by the office of Jeannine Pacioni, the county’s district attorney.

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The complaint alleges that Gunderson owns and operates Hankins Towing Inc. and Response Team Security, which provides security services to numerous Salinas-area homeowners associations.

The complaint alleges that Gunderson had his security firm unlawfully order more than 1,000 tows fulfilled by his towing company.

The district attorney filed a second criminal complaint against Marco Damian, also for vehicle theft and extortion.

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The complaint alleges Damian used his company, MD Towing, to illegally tow vehicles from the lots of Salinas-area businesses without permission from those businesses and without receiving any requests from those businesses that vehicles be towed.

“Laws governing private property tows exist to protect the public, particularly low-income consumers who are disproportionately affected by predatory towing practices,” Pacioni said. “Where tow operators engage in a pattern or practice of unlawful conduct, the District Attorney’s Office will prosecute.”

Vehicle owners who believe that their vehicles were unlawfully towed by either MD Towing or Hankins Towing are encouraged to contact the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office at (831) 647-7770 or, and should provide relevant information such as: vehicle owner’s name, date and circumstances of the tow, as well as any documentation related to the tow.

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