DENVER - Denver police have arrested a suspected car thief accused of duping a tow truck driver into delivering the vehicle to him.
Just over a week after 7NEWS aired surveillance footage of a tow truck driver taking a 1988 Chevy Caprice from the front of a Denver home and towing it away, police arrest the man whom they believe pretended to be the car's owner.
Denver police arrested 26-year-old Sedrick Bowers on suspicion of aggravated motor vehicle theft.
He's accused of calling a tow truck company and asking for the Caprice to be towed from a home near Cherry Creek Drive South and Holly Street to a Five Points apartment near 30th and Lawrence Streets.
The car was found Thursday morning, when police received a call about a group of men trying to remove the wheels from a vehicle.
When police responded to the call, they ran the vehicle identification number and discovered it was the stolen Caprice.
"The car, unfortunately, is not in good shape. It's nowhere near its original condition," said Brandy Roby.
Her brother owns the car. He served twice in Iraq and used his savings to buy the car.
"Unfortunately, it has been stripped of quite a few items," Roby said.
She said the custom wheels are gone, the windows are broken and there is front end damage as though someone tried to drive the car. That would have been difficult, since Roby still has the removable steering wheel, part of the car's anti-theft system.
Tow Truck Driver Never Verified Car's Ownership
Two days after 7NEWS first aired the surveillance video, the tow truck driver went back to Roby's house with a document filled out by the man who had the car towed.
The form has limited information filled out:
- Location of vehicle
- Phone number
- License plate number
The form shows the car was towed near 30th and Arapahoe Streets. The notes show, "No keys + no steer wheel."
The name of the owner is listed as "Jason Whitten." Jason Witten, without an 'H,' is the star tight end for the Dallas Cowboys.
"The paperwork that was filled out was just the name on the top and a small description of the vehicle and a sloppy signature on the bottom," said Roby. "(For) a job application, you have to go back a thousand years with all of your information. And then with this, all you do is fill out a name and all of a sudden you got a vehicle?"
7NEWS contacted the tow truck driver by phone. Since police have not charged him with any crime, 7NEWS is not revealing his name or his company.
"You don't wait to be shown a title or any proof that it's their car?" asked 7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger.
"No. No. We do a receipt, write a receipt up, they sign for a receipt, they make a payment. We drop the car and leave and go on to the next one," the tow truck driver said.
"If I say I need a car towed, I could call up a tow company and say, 'My car's over at such-and-such and I need it towed to this place?'" asked Zelinger.
"I mean, in the future we will (ask for proof), but like I said, in 10 years, we've never had an issue," said the tow truck driver.
"Do you feel liable at all that this car was stolen through your tow truck company?" asked Zelinger.
"No," said the driver. "If you're not going to be at the other end, it raises questions, but when you're at the other end, meeting the driver and paying for the tow, it usually doesn't raise an eyebrow."
Tow Truck Driver Provides Evidence To Help Police Nab Suspect
After meeting with Roby about taking her brother's car, the tow truck driver went back to the Five Points area where he towed the car. He told police he did not see the car, but he did see the vehicle that "Jason Whitten" was driving that day. He took a photo of the car and its temporary license plate.
The tow truck driver met with police on Thursday morning and gave officers the photos. Just more than an hour later, police located the car and arrested Bowers. While processing the car for evidence, police found a tarp in the trunk. The tarp is believed to be the same one that was covering the car in front of Roby's house.
Suspect has lengthy criminal history, multiple aliases
7NEWS checked the criminal history of Bowers and found multiple arrests and nearly a dozen aliases.
In 2007, he was sentenced to 12 years in state prison after pleading guilty in Denver to drug possession and burglary. At the same time, he was sentenced to three years in state prison for aggravated motor vehicle theft.
Under the alias, Raheem Riley, he was sentenced in 2005 to four years in state prison for a drug possession conviction in Denver.
He also has arrests for weapons possession by a previously convicted offender.
When he was arrested, Bowers was wearing an ankle monitor as part of his probation, according to his arrest affidavit.
Affidavit: Suspect Tried To Sell Car To Junk Car Company Owned By Tow Truck Driver
According to the affidavit, the tow truck driver also owns another company that purchases junk cars. The driver received a call on his junk car firm phone line from a man who wanted to sell him the same Chevy Caprice. The tow truck driver did not agree to purchase the car, because the man said he did not have the paperwork for the Caprice.
"When you buy junk cars, you verify ownership, but on regular tows -- I've been doing this 10 years -- and it's the first time it's ever happened," said the driver.
"There's no way that this would have gotten solved without going to the news," said Roby.