Docs detail auto theft scheme between city employee, informant

Docs detail auto theft scheme between city employee, informant
Barbara Lorraine Peterson.

PORTLAND, Ore. – A city employee struck a deal with a man to receive money when she told him about vehicles to tow that were violating the city’s parking laws, according to a court document released Thursday.

Those vehicles were then crushed and sold as scrap metal.

Police arrested 53-year-old Barbara Lorraine Peterson on Wednesday. She works at the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Abandoned Auto Section.

The court document says a man, who became a police informant, told police Peterson would tell him the location of the vehicles she had ticketed. He would then tow those vehicles with his pickup using a homemade towing device to West Coast Car Crushing on North Columbia Boulevard without the proper documentation.

Police raided that business as well as other locations earlier this month.

According to the court document, Peterson’s legitimate job entails fielding complaints from citizens of vehicles that are in violation of the city’s parking laws. Her job is to confirm the vehicles are parked illegally and ticket them. If several days later those vehicles are still parked illegally, her job allows her to place a bright green sticker on the vehicle that says it will be towed in 72 hours.

The city contracts with Retriever Towing. The towing company tows those cars that are still parked illegally after the 72 hours. It tows them to a tow yard and keeps them for at least 15 days, allowing the owner to claim their vehicle.

But, according to the court document, the informant told police that Peterson would tell him about the vehicle and its location before the legitimate towing company could tow it. The informant told police he would then remove all the valuable parts from the towed vehicle and then sell it to West Coast Car Crushing. That company would then have a company down the street called A-1 Light Truck and Van Parts pay the informant.

The informant would then pay Peterson.

The informant told police he paid Peterson at least $10,000 for the 30 to 40 vehicles she told him about.

Peterson faces seven counts of official misconduct, four counts of conspiracy to commit unlawful use of a motor vehicle and three counts of unlawful use of a motor vehicle.

She made her first court appearance Thursday.