Toms River Towing Company Under Fire by Displaced Hurricane Victims
Seaside Heights–For many displaced residents living in Seaside Heights, life has been a difficult challenge since Hurricane Sandy devastated their town. For two weeks, residents weren’t allowed back to their homes and many did not even know if they had a home to go back to. Many have been living in shelters, being tossed from one to the next, while others were fortunate enough to have family and friends able to take them in on the mainland.
While most could not wait to get back to their homes this week during the initial set of allowed visits, they were not expecting what they found. Many residents returned home to find their cars and trucks removed from their property, without notice.
John Camera, the Seaside Heights borough administrator said that an order was given by the borough to APK Towing of Toms River to remove all vehicles in the streets so the clean-up process could begin. However, many residents claim APK towing went above and beyond the borough mandate and removed cars from private properties across the storm battered town.
That was only half of the problem. Dozens of storm victims claim APK Towing was less than friendly when it came to retrieving their confiscated automobiles.
Megan Nutt, a Seaside Park resident said her car was parked in a private parking spot on the street, but when she went to get her automobile, she was faced with a $768.00 bill. She says APK charged her for 9 days of storage at $25 per day, $175 for towing and labor, $265 for a recovery winch and $103 for paperwork. ”They wanted almost $900, but by the end of the call, he went down to $600,” she said. “I asked him if he was happy and planning on getting rich off of these displaced people.” She claims the man on the phone at the towing company responded, “Yes!” and said he was going to pick up 300 more cars in Lavallette later that day.
Storm victims claimed they were never notified about their cars being towed and are now unhappy with the prospect of having to pay for up to 14 days of storage fees for vehicles some claim were removed illegally. It was 14 days they were not even allowed back to their homes.
“Mine was missing from my driveway,” said Laura Lech. “It was there Tuesday after Sandy, but now it’s gone.”
“I had my car towed by APK Towing and when I left my car after Sandy hit, it was running and working,” said Mary Beth Straten. “I left two days after the storm and it was ok.”
Sara Coehlo said her company’s work truck was taken from a nearby apartment complex parking lot. ”It was towed and they want $900 to get it out!” she said.
Another displaced storm victim, Jamie Brasier claims the towing company lied about the day her car was towed. ”They wanted to charge me $895,” she said. ”They were trying to say they moved it on a day I was still home…When I got it back, the bumper was ripped off and there were a couple of dents.”
On Tuesday, the corner of Coolidge Avenue and Route 37 in Toms River looked like a salvage yard. Cars were parked inches apart on the entire corner lot owned by APK, with some on the sidewalk and park in the street behind the lot.
Dee Witcha also said her car was towed from private property in Seaside Heights. “They charged me $915.52!”
When asked about the allegations being raised against APK Towing, Camera said “We are investigating several complaints made against APK Towing. The borough did issue an order to remove vehicles from borough streets so they could be cleaned up, but not from private property,’ he said. “We are looking into these allegations and if any are indeed accurate, then we have a big problem.”
Camera said typical towing charges in the borough, according to ordinance start at $125 and increase based on the size of the vehicle being towed. Camera also said that due to the complaints, residents would now be allowed to have any towing company remove cars if they needed to be towed off the island and those companies would be allowed onto the island, which has been in lock down since the hurricane hit.
The news wasn’t comforting for Stacey Hallett. ”APK towed my vehicle that was deep in my driveway,” she said. “They had the nerve to slash my Jeep’s window to get the parking break off and said if I did not retrieve the car in two days they were towing it to a junk yard and charging me. They would not tell me which junkyard they would tow it to.”
We followed an APK tow truck from Toms River west on Route 37, then south on the Garden State Parkway. The truck dropped off a car near the Bamber Lake Auto Recycling in Forked River. A representative at Bamber Lake Auto said that APK is not bringing vehicles to their facility, but said APK was renting a lot adjacent to their business.
Cars aren’t the only thing being towed out of Seaside Heights by APK. Carla Parillo said she had to pay $3,800 to get her family’s crabbing boat back from the company. ”Our family lost our home and this company has the nerve to take advantage of those in their time of stress, sorrow and despair. We will not be quiet about this!” she said.
Another storm victim, Gilbert Perez says his car was taken without notification and says APK did not even know where his car is. ”APK towed my car from Seaside Heights. There were no notifications to any residents that cars had to be moved,” he said. ”It had no water damage at all, as I stayed until after the storm, even drove it after the storm. Now they don’t even know where it is.”
Dorothy Montgomery also said her car was taken from her driveway. ”I didn’t know until I showed up at my house and it was gone!”
To date, several calls have been made to APK towing, but none have returned to comment on this story.
Today, NJ101.5 reported that Seaside heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd says his department is aware of the problem and is already investigating. “We’ve got our detectives on it along with (New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs). The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office was (also) notified immediately.”
For more information and photos on this story, visit the Ocean County Police Blotter facebook page where the incident was first reported by residents.