Amid Complaints, Seaside Heights Towing Company Agrees To Refunds
A Toms River towing company under legal and public scrutiny over charges of price gouging has admitted charging too much to remove cars from Seaside Heights following Superstorm Sandy and is offering refunds.
Steven Secare, a lawyer for APK Auto Repair, the authorized towing company for the Borough of Seaside Heights, told News 12's Walt Kane that the fees charged some residents for the post-Sandy tows were too high and APK has agreed to a flat fee of $250 and will offer refunds to those charged higher.
Many residents complained that APK not only removed vehicles off the street but also from private property. Secare told News 12 APK was told to"get vehicles out of the way" to make way for equipment being brought for cleanup in Seaside Heights. When asked if that meant off private property, Secare didn't answer specifically but said his client didn't remove vehicles to make money.
APK is not a AAA-approved contractor and has no affiliation with the company.
Earlier in the week, Seaside Heights Borough Administrator Jon Camera told Toms River Magazine that according to a Borough ordinance tow rates start at $125 and increase based on the size of the vehicle being towed. An invoice obtained by Townsquare Media NJ showed a charge of $416.
Meanwhile, APK's Route 37 facility, filled with cars parked inches away from each other, was surrounded on Thursday night by crime scene tape as police were seen inside an office talking to employees.
Earlier in the day, Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford says her office is “aware that there are allegations of excessive prices. They may or may not conflict with state law and that’s what we’re looking into,” she said.
Ford was quick to caution that it will take solid evidence to determine whether any case, civil or criminal, exists. But she’s formed the Hurricane Sandy Task Force to field complaints of unethical or illegal practices against storm victims, and she’s urging people who think they’ve been targeted to call her office.
“People who feel they have been the victim of a crime related to the aftermath of the storm are encouraged to report that to their local police department or to the Office of the Ocean County Prosecutor,” says Ford. “They should not under any circumstances try to confront someone they suspect of criminal activity, or to otherwise place themselves in a position where their safety is compromised.”
County Senior Assistant Prosecutor Martin Anton heads the force. He can be reached at 732-929-2027.