George W. Peahl

PROVO — A tow-truck driver who lugged away cars without the owners' knowledge or permission is now facing a slew of auto-theft allegations.

Officials with the Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division allege that George W. Peahl, 45, snagged 11 cars from Orem neighborhoods, four of which have already been crushed and sold to a recycling company, said Charlie Roberts, spokesman for the State Tax Commission, which oversees the Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division. The others were in the process of being disassembled at a tow yard.

Officials say Peahl would approach an older-model car parked at a home, load it on his official-looking tow truck and then take it to a towing yard in American Fork where he forged the title and sold it for scrap.

This case is especially unusual, Roberts said, because normally car owners can avoid theft by locking the car and not leaving the keys in it.

"But here you have a guy driving a tow truck, and it appears to be a legitimate business," Roberts said. "He's stealing older-model cars, so if you're a neighbor looking out your front window, you assume the neighbor has a trouble with his car and is getting it picked up to be repaired. But that wasn't the case here."

Peahl had been hitting random neighborhoods in Orem for the past six to eight weeks, Roberts said, and victims would call Orem Police to report the thefts.

Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division officers routinely check wrecking yards, but this case began when one of the shop owners saw an old Volkswagen van come in that he had seen before on the streets, so he contacted the state's officers and the investigation began, Roberts said.

State officers coordinated with Orem police officers throughout the investigation.

Peahl is already in the Utah County Jail on an unrelated allegation of vehicle theft, and Roberts said they will be asking the Utah County Attorney's Office to evaluate for potential charges of forgery, falsification of records, selling without a license, theft by deception and auto theft.

The owner of the tow yard has volunteered to work with the victims, which he didn't have to do, Roberts said.

"The value isn't very high, because they're older models," Roberts said. "But if you're one of the victims, and it's your sole source of transportation, it's worth a lot more than the blue-book price."

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