Tow truck operator caught in I-65 ‘sting’

A tow truck operator from Lapine was arrested in Escambia County last week after he fell victim to a “sting” set up by Baldwin County authorities, then high-tailed it back toward his hometown with a stolen vehicle before being stopped and taken into custody by Alabama State Troopers and Escambia County Sheriff’s Office patrol units.

According to Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office reports, Charles Williams of the tiny unincorporated community — which straddles the Montgomery and Crenshaw county lines — was charged with one count of theft of property after he traveled roughly 120 miles from his home and towed a disabled vehicle from a point along Interstate 65 in Baldwin County without being authorized to do so.

Williams, who is suspected of making several such unauthorized pickups, chose the wrong vehicle to steal this time.

BCSO officials had decided to place a tracking device in or on a vehicle that was owned by the sheriff’s office and parked the vehicle near mile marker 41 of the portion of the interstate that runs through the county and from which about a half-dozen vehicles have been stolen this year.

Published reports indicate that the “sting vehicle” remained for about a week in the spot where it was left before Williams, who reportedly has owned and operated Southern Recovery & Towing in Montgomery for 19 years, pulled a roll-back wrecker in front of the “disabled” vehicle, loaded it onto the truck bed and drove almost 40 miles with it. After deputies tracked the stolen vehicle into Escambia County and notified troopers and ECSO officials, Williams was stopped near mile marker 77.

The arrest brought to an end an investigation that had been ongoing for a year, according to a BCSO spokesman. The probe was launched because of an increase in the number of disabled vehicles that have been disappearing from beside the federal roadway.

Troopers took Williams to the Escambia County Detention Center, where an ECSO spokesperson said the suspect was held until Baldwin County officials arrived and assumed custody.