RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – Contractors hired by North Carolina to tow, store and auction vehicles seized during DWI cases cannot account for 234 vehicles, according to a state audit.
Martin Edwards & Associates, Inc. and Eastway Wrecker Service, Inc. were contracted to handle vehicles as part of North Carolina’s DWI/Felony Speeding to Elude Vehicle Seizure Program.
The vehicles handled by the contractor would be connected to repeat DWI offenses and for felony speeding to elude arrest cases.
Read the audit
The audit states Martin Edwards & Associates can’t account for 221 vehicles of the 4,772 it seized.
Eastway was unable to provide documentation for 13 of the 4,018 vehicles, the audit states.
The vehicles had an approximate value of $634,000.
The audit report includes a six-page list of automobiles that were seized by the state and are now unaccounted for.
“Because contractors were unable to provide documentation supporting the status or location of these vehicles, there is a risk that contractors inappropriately benefited from the contract,” the audit states.
The vehicles were seized between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2016.
The Department of Public Instruction was in control of the program from Dec. 1, 1997 to Feb. 29, 2016.
The Department of Administration’s State Surplus Property Agency took over the program as of March 1, 2016.
Auditor Beth Wood told CBS North Carolina her investigators had great difficulty in trying to get information from Martin Edwards and Associates.
She says they were “uncooperative and rude” and at one point a company staffer “threw a subpoena at one of her auditors” when they were ordered to produce documents.
According to the audit report, Martin Edwards and Associates
Actively hindered the audit
Was unwilling to produce requested documentation
Had poor record keeping
Could not produce over 440 documents
When consumer reporter Steve Sbraccia called the company to try to get answers and said he was as a reporter, a person identifying herself as Nicole said, “let me stop you right there. We have no comment.”
“It is our recommendation that the state of North Carolina not do business with that eastern vendor,” said Wood.
The state seized the cars under a program that takes away vehicles from those arrested repeatedly for DWI or those who flee police during high-speed chases.
Martin and Associates writes on its website that it in fact gets many of the cars it auctions from the state seizure program under its contract with the state.
The auditor wants that contract pulled.
“The bottom line, the DPI did not do their job,” said Wood.
In a response letter attached to the audit report, DPI says it was never set up to oversee a vehicle auction program as this is not part of our core function.”
Some of the money generated by sales from the seized vehicles is supposed to go the state’s public schools, which is why the seizure program was supposed to be overseen by the Department of Public Instruction.
Auditor Wood says the program was moved from DPI to the Department of Administration last year and that DOA is now taking steps to insure a situation like that won’t happen again.
She explained what DOA must do.
“The Dept of Administration needs to look at the number of vehicles seized monthly and tie it back to documentation from the vendor saying it’s been released, sold or on their lot,” said Wood
Meanwhile the search is on to locate the hundreds of vehicles that can’t be accounted for.
CBS North Carolina has learned the state License and Theft bureau is now on the case, trying to track down what happened to the vanished vehicles. The auditor says it will be up to that agency to decide if criminal charges need to be filed once it completes its investigation.
The audit report also says Eastway Wrecker Service cooperated fully regarding the investigation into the 13 vehicles it couldn’t account for.
The audit scope included a review of Program activities between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2016.
The audit recommends the Department of Administration should monitor contractors regularly and determine to what extent the contractors are able to provide these services under current and future state contracts.
The Department of Administration said it began monitoring the program as soon as it was handed to them in March 2016 and agrees with the audit’s findings.
Martin Edwards released the following statement Thursday afternoon:
“Martin Edwards is disappointed that we were not given an opportunity to either review or respond to the state’s audit prior to its release to the media. The report currently indicates that the paperwork for 221 vehicles was not provided. Martin Edwards, in fact, complied with requests for document production on four different occasions, sending more than 3500 pages of documents to the state auditor’s office. Martin Edwards has cooperated fully with this audit.
Enrico Fermi: In estimating to the nearest power of 10 the number of chickens that cross the road, note that since fractional chickens are not allowed, the desired power must be at least zero. Therefore, at least one chicken crosses the road.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A Jefferson County deputy was injured in an early morning crash on I-65 involving a DUI suspect, according to authorities.
State Troopers say a DUI suspect lost control of his vehicle on I-65, left the roadway, struck a guardrail and reentered I-65 where he hit a tanker truck. The vehicle finally came to a rest in the middle of a dark roadway.
Following the initial crash, a Jefferson County deputy traveling in the area struck the suspected DUI driver’s vehicle which sent the patrol vehicle into the guardrail, crossed over into I-65 SB and flipped multiple times. Authorities say the deputy and DUI suspect were taken to UAB for treatment. Neither of their injuries are believed to be serious.
SOLON, Ohio — OVI, SR 43: At 12:15 a.m. Nov. 19, an officer, using radar, detected a car traveling 100 miles per hour in a 35-mile-per-hour zone. The car eventually stopped for the officer in the lot of Steak-N-Shake, 7020 Aurora Road.
The driver, an Indianapolis man, 22, told the officer that he was speeding because he was trying to get to Steak-N-Shake to get something to eat before they closed. The restaurant is open 24 hours per day. The man showed signs of impairment and went on to fail field sobriety tests.
His blood-alcohol content was found to be .128, above the state minimum for drunk driving of .08.
Police charged the man with OVI, prohibited BAC, speeding, reckless operation, and driving without an operator’s license.
Henri Poincare: Let’s try changing the initial position of the chicken just a tiny, tiny, tiny bit, and….look, it’s now across the road!
A second Kingston police officer was charged Wednesday with driving under the influence following an all-terrain vehicle crash in September.
Officer Jonathan Karasinski was charged with DUI — nearly double over the legal limit — driving at an unsafe speed and operating an ATV on the street.
Officer John Sosnoski was charged Oct. 20 with the same set of offenses. He was nearly three times over the legal blood alcohol limit.
New details emerged Wednesday when the arrest papers were released. Sosnoski and Karasinski, who were off duty, crashed their all-terrain vehicles around 1:20 a.m. Sept. 29 in Edwardsville, state police at Wyoming said.
According to the affidavit, the officers were drinking at Rush Inn on Zerby Avenue in Kingston, then left the bar on their ATVs.
They were riding south on Zerby Avenue near High Street — about five blocks from where the left — when Karasinski lost control and flipped his 2014 Polaris Sportsman.
Sosnoski swerved to miss Karasinski’s ATV and slammed his 2014 Polaris Sportsman into a tree along the street, police said.
On Oct. 7, he told police he went to the Rush Inn. He left there and the next thing he remembered was waking up with a tube in his throat.
Karasinski, 35, of Exeter, was transported to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township for treatment of severe head trauma before Edwardsville police arrived, police said.
Police got on scene to find Sosnoski, 24, of Ashley, showed signs of being under the influence and smelled of alcohol, according to the affidavit.
Police said they asked him how much he had to drink, and Sosnoski told them he had one beer.
Police asked him if he would take a portal breath test. He said he would rather not, but then agreed. The blood alcohol limit is .08 percent. He blew a .16 percent, but had a blood alcohol level of .21 percent, police said.
He was taken into custody for suspicion of driving under the influence, police said. He was treated at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center for an ankle injury and released.
Police obtained a search warrant to get Karasinski’s blood alcohol level, which was .14 percent.
Sosnoski is on paid suspension pending a disciplinary hearing to determine what, if any action should be taken.
Neither Mayor James Haggerty nor Kingston police Chief Michael Krzywicki immediately returned messages seeking Karasinski’s employment status.