Police: Tow driver drained crash victim's account

James David Dickson
The Detroit News
Joel Leys

A 31-year-old Belleville man faces felony charges after allegedly emptying a bank account of a Pennsylvania woman who died in a May 2017 crash on Interstate 275.

Joel Leys was arraigned Thursday on three counts of illegal use or sale of a financial transaction device. Each charge is punishable by up to four years in prison.

The 21-year-old Erie, Pennsylvania woman was injured on May 13, 2017 in a single-car rollover crash on northbound 275 at West Huron River Drive in Romulus. State Trooper Michael Kane responded to the scene. Medics transported her to the University of Michigan Hospital, where she remained comatose until she died on May 18.

The day the woman died, Kane got a call from the woman's family, who told him that someone was spending money from the woman's account, and presented him with a list of the unauthorized transactions.

Michigan State Police said Kane started tracking the purchases, including one at a pizza restaurant near the tow yard that moved the victim's vehicle from the crash site. The trooper reached out to the restaurant and learned that the pizza in question had been delivered to a nearby address. A phone number used to make the order also traced back to that address.

A police check of the address showed that Leys, a tow yard employee and a tow truck driver, lived there. They obtained search warrants for the suspect's car insurance information, phone records, and a ticket purchased from the Michigan International Speedway. The suspect's car insurance and the MIS ticket were both purchased with the victim's bank card, police said. 

"It was ultimately determined that the tow yard employee removed the victim's bank card from her purse," which was in the vehicle when it crashed, per a state police statement on the incident.