The scam was so successful that it worked again and again. Vincent Cardinalli, 67, would tow away vehicles that people no longer owned, and wait for the storage fees to accrue. Then he would sue the people in small claims court. The Small Claims Court Commissioner invariably agreed with him—he only lost two cases—and Cardinalli was able to amass over $1 million from low and middle income families who did not have the wherewithal to fight the claims. When the case finally made it to the Santa Clara County Court, Cardinalli was charged with 99 felony counts of fraud. Cardinalli’s son, Peter Greer, was charged with 58 counts, his daughter, Rosemary Ball, was charged with three counts, and her husband was charged with one count. It was a real family of thieves.
Things took a turn in 2005, when Cardinalli attempted to sue State Farms Insurance. Greg Adler, an eager new attorney for the firm that sold State Farm the cars, became suspicious of the unusually high number of small claims cases that Cardinalli had brought over the years and decided to investigate. He found thousands of documents substantiating his suspicions and approached the public prosecutor.
Cardinalli was finally towed before the court, where he pleaded no contest. At the sentencing, the justice compared Cardinalli to Bernie Madoff, and not favorably at that. “Madoff ripped off people who were greedy,” said Judge Gilbert T. Brown. “They [the Cardinalli family] ripped off ordinary folks who were just trying to put food on the table.” Vincent Cardinalli was then sentenced to fourteen years in prison, and his son was sentenced to eight years. His daughter and son-in-law were also convicted and must now wear electronic tracking devices.
Read More at ABC 7.