City of Portland employee accused in auto theft ring, arrested

PORTLAND, Ore. - Police arrested a 53-year-old city of Portland employee Wednesday, accusing her of being involved in an auto theft ring.

Barbara Lorraine Peterson, an employee at the Portland Bureau of Transportation's Abandoned Auto Section, was arrested after she arrived at work, said Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson.

Simpson said Peterson was giving information about abandoned vehicles to an illegal tow truck driver and accepting money to provide the information. That tow truck driver would then steal the cars and then tow them to West Coast Car Crushing on North Columbia Boulevard where they were crushed and sold as scrap metal, Simpson said.

Simpson said police learned about Peterson's alleged activities during their auto theft investigation that included West Coast Car Crushing.

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

Detectives believe Peterson acted alone without the knowledge of the city or any other city employees, Simpson said.

Peterson was taken to the Multnomah County Jail. She 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 is expected to be arraigned Thursday.