Drivers demand refund from Tampa tow company

10News investigates a local company with a dubious reputation.

Local drivers are demanding their money back claiming a tow company snatched their cars without any notice.

Imagine having your car towed while you worked without any sign where you parked is illegal.  That's what Hard Rock employees say happened in the lot right across the street at a closed-down Chevron gas station, 7702 E. Hillsborough Avenue, with TIA towing.  The tow yard is right next door to the lot.

10 Investigates has been fighting for fairness and getting refunds all year on aggressive, unfair tows.

More frustrated drivers recently reached out to 10News for help.

“You stole my money, you stole my car,” says driver Joseph Matteucci as he confronted a TIA Towing worker.

Matteucci, Eric Williams and about a dozen other Hard Rock workers parked their cars in the Chevron lot, as they say they've been doing the past five years.  They got quite a surprise after a Friday night shift recently.

“Everyone realize their car had been towed,” says Matteucci.

Workers insist when they parked, tow-away signs weren't at either entrance as required by the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.

“None of us saw signs.  We just came out, the cars were gone,” says Eric Williams.

They quickly found the cars next door at TIA Towing.  Each paying $170 to get their car out.

“You refuse to give me a receipt.  I'm asking you for a receipt.  You won't give me a receipt,” Matteucci told a TIA worker.

“They are always supposed to provide a receipt,” says Public Transportation Commission Director Kyle Cockream.

The Hillsborough County PTC regulates tow companies.  Cockream tells 10News after drivers’ complaints, the PTC is now investigating TIA’s.

Tuesday, one of the required signs at the back entrance wasn't there, but by Friday it was posted.  Inspectors uncovered one sign ditched in the dumpster.

PTC investigators discovered neither sign at the back or front entrance is reflective. 

Local ordinance and state statutes require, “The words ‘Tow-away zone’ must be included on the sign in not less than 4-inch high letters.”  Cockream says there’s some question if that’s 4” per line or total, when the word “Zone” is below “Tow Away” on a second line.  It’s still something investigators have asked TIA towing to fix.

“While the sign is not there, or the inappropriate sign is there, then it's an illegal tow,” says Cockream.

“We'd like to get our money back,” says Williams.

While the PTC can't demand tow companies refund drivers, they can strongly suggest it.

A 10News crew waited outside TIA Towing for more than 3 hours, but the owner didn’t show up as promised.

On the video confrontation between Matteucci and the TIA worker, the tow truck driver had plenty to say about the company’s allegedly shady practices.

“I've got a week left at this company, until I go to a (expletive) normal company.  Everything they do here is (expletive) wrong,” the worker says.

The owner of the gas station property, APEC, Automated Petroleum and Energy Company, tells 10News it did sign a new towing contract with TIA’s a few weeks ago, because it’s trying to sell the property.

Coincidentally, that’s shortly after Hard Rock started charging for parking.

10 Investigates has compiled a list of ways you can get refunds if unfairly towed

Click here to file a complaint with the PTC.


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