BUFFALO, NY - Three months ago, it looked like a law enforcement convention was taking place at Jim Mazz Auto on Bailey Avenue in Buffalo.
The FBI was there, so too was the IRS, New York State Tax Department, the Department of Motor Vehicles and members of the Buffalo Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau.
Jim Mazzariello, the owner found himself at the center of wide- ranging investigation sparked by allegations that tow truck companies were giving bribes to Buffalo police officers at accident scenes in order to be awarded tows, and with them the potential of lucrative collision repair work that often goes along with it.
In the wake of the alleged bribery scandal, the city started requiring towing companies to submit to a background check in order to be called for city tows.
Mazzariello's attorney says Jim Mazz Auto has been off the city tow list since last May, but claims the city won't say why.
Now Mazariello has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the city claiming that being off the city tow list is crippling his business.
The lawsuit claims "police officers and parking enforcement employees (who are now responsible for tows) have told motorists that Jim Mazz was not permitted to tow because of an alleged FBI investigation...and that he stole cars."
The lawsuit claims that the city is retaliating against Mazzariello because he alerted city officials to the alleged bribery scandal. The lawsuit even admitting that Mazzariello himself used to pay off officers.
Steve Cohen, Mazariello's lawyer: "Years ago my client was required to pay police officers, as are the other tow companies, and he in putting a stop to it said 'I'm not doing this anymore, and I want the city to do something about it,' and as a result of that, some high ranking police officials got pretty irritated and started to come down on Jim Mazz Auto."
A law enforcement source tells 2 On Your Side that the criminal and civil investigations are on-going and that it's focusing on two areas:
1) The bribery allegations involving Buffalo police.
2) The business operations at Jim Mazz Auto.
The source says witnesses are being spoken to but that charges are not expected in the near future.
Right now, only two towing companies are authorized to do city tows: Riverside Towing and South Buffalo Auto Parts.
The two companies alternate on a weekly basis handling calls from the city.