Wrecker drivers indicted in SAFEClear investigation

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter
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HOUSTON - Four wrecker drivers are now facing criminal charges after a months-long investigation by the Harris County District Attorney's Office and the Houston Police Department's Burglary and Theft division.

Court records reveal all four drivers worked for T&T Motors and all were indicted by a grand jury on charges of theft by a public servant.

Prosecutors said all four drivers worked under the city of Houston's SAFEClear program, which provided taxpayer subsidized tows. The program began under Mayor Bill White and was designed to provide free short-distance tows to stranded motorists on the freeway. Wrecker drivers working under the program would then get reimbursed by the city for the work.

According to court documents, David Bishop, Anthony Keith Hickey, Tommy Lee Darrett and Earle Wayne Whatley are accused of turning in "tow slips" for work that was never performed. Court records read Bishop filed 239 fraudulent tow slips and received $12,169 in payment; Hickey is accused of filing 145 fraudulent tow slips at a cost of $7,460; Darrett is accused of filing 26 fraudulent tow slips for $1,310, and Whatley is accused of filing 25 fraudulent tow slips for $1,188.

Prosecutors said in all the cases the drivers claimed to have towed cars they "did not actually tow, including vehicles that were not even drivable, and vehicles that have never been towed, according to their owners."

Bishop was also accused of filing for reimbursement from the city by claiming "to have towed the same car repeatedly."

Hickley is also accused of charging the city for towing "his own vehicle 12 times."

In June, Local 2 Investigates reported the DA's Office and HPD began auditing hundreds of thousands of tow slips filed under the SAFEClear program.

A message left with the owner of T&T Motors seeking comment has not yet been returned.

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