Coincidence or not, the city took notice after a slew of irate calls and forced Mirmelli to install new signs at his Lenox lot. "We had a rash of folks coming in [to complain]," Miami Beach Parking Director Saul Frances says. But Frances claims there's not much else he can do. "It's a free-enterprise issue," he says.


Tow Truck Drivers Accused of Stealing Cars

Sometimes, drivers for Beach and Tre­mont hook cars that are never returned to their owners. Drivers for both companies have been accused of sneaking into condo buildings, trolling for cars with out-of-town owners, and then rolling off with the wheels.

Consider the case of Fu Tian, a Los Angeles businessman who sued Beach Towing in June for allegedly jacking his 2006 Mercedes GL 450 from the Grand Condominium.

Tian says that on September 30, 2011, surveillance video captured a heavyset African-American man behind the wheel of a Tremont truck entering Grand's garage around a quarter to one in the morning. A hefty Hispanic male was in the passenger seat. A few minutes later, the cameras caught the same truck exiting the garage towing a 1998 blue Porsche Carrera 911, according to a City of Miami Police report.

Then, at 1:07 a.m., the Tremont truck returned and took away a 1998 white BMW Z3. An hour later, the truck came back once more, hitching Tian's burgundy Benz. It wasn't until 14 days later that the condominium's security manager realized the truck had removed all three luxury rides without authorization.

Miami detectives confirmed that no one from the condo had called Tremont and that the driver indeed worked for Tremont. A manager told the cops that the driver, whose name is not listed in the documents, had been flagged down by the Hispanic male, who claimed to be a repo man seeking help to "secure the vehicles."

To date, no one has been arrested, and the cars have not been recovered. Tian has sued the Grand Condominium and its valet parking contractor for negligence, as well as Tremont for negligent hiring and retention.

It's not the first time either tow company has been sued over similar allegations.

In 2002, Agustus Sanchez took Tremont to court over claims the company auctioned his Harley-Davidson motorcycle while he was trying to retrieve it. Though Sanchez spoke directly with Tremont's then-owner, Edwin "Tony" Gonzalez, about paying the required impound and storage fees, the bike was sold at public auction December 11, 2001, for about $20,000. Tremont settled with Sanchez in 2005 for $65,000, the Harley's estimated value.

A year later, part-time Miami Beach resident Tal Priel sued Beach Towing for civil theft of his vintage 1975 gold two-door Buick LeSabre from his rented spot inside the parking garage at 555 Washington Ave. When he returned after a seven-month stint in New York City, Priel learned that Beach had towed his car and sold it to then-employee Alberto Castellanos for $1,481.72. Priel sued, claiming Beach intentionally sent certified letters to the wrong address so it could put a lien on the Buick to sell it. At the time, Priel told New Times, "I was devastated." (Beach later settled for an undisclosed amount.)

Tian's lawyer, Andreas Kelly, expects a similar outcome in his case. "A tow truck company that employs dishonest people can do a lot of damage," Kelly says. "I have never seen a tow truck company that does something this blatant."

Through their lobbyist, Andrade, Beach and Tremont officials declined to comment on the lawsuits.


Wasting Miami Beach Police Time

Miami Beach officers must know the Beach and Tremont tow yards like their own backyards, because they probably spend more time dealing with outraged car owners and petty crime there than they do grilling on their patios.

In July, blogger Bill Cooke reported on his Random Pixels site that police fielded 768 calls from Beach and Tremont's tow yards in the previous year. "Many of the calls are for disturbances that cover everything from a customer arguing loudly to a fistfight," Cooke says. "In those cases, police dispatchers are required to dispatch two units for officer safety. Multiply that by 768 times, year in and year out, and you start to see the tremendous drain on resources these two companies create annually."

And who pays for it? "The taxpayer," Cooke notes. "Definitely not the towing companies."

New Times analyzed 81 incident reports filed between June 2012 and June of this year. The documents show that Beach and Tremont call the cops for everything from petty vandalism to people taking off in their cars without paying.

For instance, Tremont rang the boys in blue on June 16, 2012, when a man named Ramzi Zaghloug sneaked through the iron gate into their yard around 5:30 p.m. Tremont employee Victor Juarbe watched the bald, 34-year-old Jordan native get into his red 2012 BMW 328i and drive off the lot. Instantly, Juarbe called the MBPD, reporting Zaghloug owed a $210 tow fee. The cops spotted him entering a condo on Ocean Drive. When an officer approached, Zaghloug said, "They towed my car wrong, and I went and got it back." The cop took him back to Tremont, where Zaghloug was charged with felony theft — of his own car.

Two months later, Beach Towing manager Jorge Rodriguez called police to report 32-year-old North Miami Beach resident Justin Michael Weaver after cameras caught him forcing open the yard's gate, getting into his green 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier, and driving off. Weaver owed $1,163 in parking fines and towing charges. Miami Beach cops started a fruitless search.

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59 comments
Citizen4Justice
Citizen4Justice

What is going on here is a systematic fraud being perpetuated against the citizens of Dade County.  Great Article. We need to hold our representatives accountable for allowing this to continue. Open up the process; REGULATE the process; Until that time, Justice is being stomped on by the people charged with upholding it.

tmmmm
tmmmm

This is why I am a huge fan of Stand your Ground Law. If I saw someone stealing my car(as do these companies). I would stand my ground and shoot to kill. A few of their hired thugs getting picked off...they'd eventually change their tune.

trouble7237
trouble7237

This article is on point.  I don't live in the Beach but I owned a unit there once that I was repairing.  I parked at my assigned spot and walked into the unit for 10 minutes and my car was towed.  I didn't have the parking decal, but it was my assigned spot so obviously no one called to complain (as the law requires) but the tow truck somehow found my car in an alley in 10 minutes.  I called the police, condo management called Tremont and at the end I just had to pay for the tow.  Totally unfair.  

These people are the enforcement arm of a parking mafia in the Beach that make it possible, and for the public necessary, to dish out $30 for simply parking a car.

swinghigh
swinghigh

Make Changes to Tow Permit

1) Permitee must allow payment by CREDIT CARD.
3) Eliminate $30 after hour fee. Does not exist in contract.
4) Eliminate $30 Administration. Unjustly added, only legit if titled searched
5) Eliminate $30 Labor. Labor already included in standard tow rate (page 28-29) .
6) Audit the Permitees annually to investigate customer charges. Only 1 audit in 20 yrs
7) Create Miami Beach resident discount, flat $50 tow fee.
8) Stop releasing cars at no charge to city of Miami Beach employees.
9) Simplify fee schedule, state $ fee for “Passenger Vehicle” not “vehicle class types A, B, and C”. No definition

fjg2000
fjg2000

The only way to end this corruption that is totally out of control is to get rid of the greedy crooked politicians and bureaucrats in Miami Beach. They have created 2 monsters, Tremont and Beach Towing and it is VERY clear they are protecting and enriching these goons so they can benefit from it. It's all about the money for them. 

The residents must first get rid of the ringleader, Commissioner Jonah Wolfson who is obviously the main beneficiary along with his wife. Then we must force the other politicians to get rid of the Parking Director as he has obviously come under the "influence" of the 2 towing companies. The FDLE and state attorney's office must also investigate but they will not do so unless there is a substantial public outcry and intense pressure.  

Enough is enough. We must put an end to this travesty once and for all. If not, the blatant abuses will continue and only get worse over time.    

justopinion
justopinion

My car was towed by Tremont yet I parked in the parking lot with attendant on Washington Ave across from Story night club.  The attendant assured it was good yet when I came out within hour from the club without drink my car was towed away.  I believe there is scam set up with the parking space.  I lost alot of money because of this. I am surprised that none of the better business bureau or goverment stepped into this.

swinghigh
swinghigh

When I called for a tow because my car broke down, the fee was only $65. Why then are unsanctioned tows $250?

Allso, why, is request for a tow fee increase approved 5 out of 5 times by Parking Dept staff and the Parking and Transportation Committee (which is made up of 7 volunteer residents and chaired by Commissioner Weithorns husband)

jdomar
jdomar

Office of the Attorney General , Div. of Economic Crimes needs to investigate this corruption along with FDLE. Please contact them. If corruption is indeed entrenched, it makes no sense in dealing with local officials or mayor candidates for MB, who are battling at the local level, when this kind of monetary tow company contribution is having an undue influence on seemingly all of them, thus leaving the local residents to get hosed. I would consider this a major social problem, on par with the price gouging that happens during hurricanes, yet for some reason the Attorney General chooses to prosecute those violations to the fullest yet ignore these. Perhaps these issues have not been properly brought up to higher authorities at the state level. I would encourage that to be done and thank New Times for this article, in exposing a blatant scam that has been brazenly going on in plain sight, harmful to the general public and a completely illegal shell game  that affects thousands of law abiding people and certainly erodes public confidence in elected officials and even the campaign process.

 The issue at stake is that If the business owner does not call for the tow, then the individual should be left alone, period.  Who cares if these companies are a "necessary evil"? We all know that, but they need to obey the law. The opposite is happening and we should NOT stand for it in any way. As someone moving to Miami Beach in a month, I want to see something done about this and an investigation by the AG's office should be demanded by numerous people to get the ball rolling.! I'm not sure I understand these people talking about it being a necessary fact of life that people get towed, so oh well. We all know that. The issue here that that the business owner must call for the tow PER THE TOWING STATUTE, otherwise its an illegal tow. What we have here is a situation where homeless people are being used as spotters to initiate the tow. Completely illegal, so to the comments below, you are missing the issue. These two tow companies should be investigated by higher (read: non-local) authorities and compliance with the law must be mandated to halt these illegal practices.

 Florida Statute 713.78 reads"(2) Whenever a person regularly engaged in the business of transporting vehicles or vessels by wrecker, tow truck, or car carrier recovers, removes, or stores a vehicle or vessel upon instructions from:(a) The owner thereof;(b) The owner or lessor, or a person authorized by the owner or lessor, of property on which such vehicle or vessel is wrongfully parked, and the removal is done in compliance with s. 715.07; or(c) Any law enforcement agency,"  So the owner or person authorized by owner must call. Using homeless people not authorized by owners violates people's right to due process.

wholefoods
wholefoods

As much as I hate to take their side, I have lived here for four years and been towed once. I parked in the aforementioned 7-11 lot and ate at Lime. I deserved to be towed, and I paid for it. Most of these anecdotes ignore the fact that towing is essential to the maintenance of order, and I guarantee you that most of these sob stories are BS. You are parking on private property, and at that point you forfeit your right to redress. If these complaints were stemming from incidents that occur in lots owned by the City of Miami Beach, that would be one thing. But they arent. Imagine you are a small business owner. You sign a lease on a property, paying more per square foot than you would for the property next door. You do so because your property has designated parking. But you find that when you open for business, the parking that you have paid for is constantly invaded by people that are going to the business next door. They are trespassing, and taking money out of your pocket. The high fees for towing is supposed to act as a deterrent to theft and trespassing.

James G. Camp
James G. Camp

Just the other day in Broward, a tow truck driver got shot. According to that story, 9 cars at the same apartment complex were to be towed ?

Ben Wonfitness C
Ben Wonfitness C

miami beach is the dirties!!! the cops are corrupt!! everything is corrupt in good ol Miami Beach!!!!!!

Jason Walters
Jason Walters

This si the primary reason i avoid Miami Beach. They can keep it.

hereinmiami
hereinmiami

I think it would be a mistake to open it up to companies outside the beach, because then people will face incredible difficulties getting their cars back; the only positive things about the current situation are that the lots are within reasonable walking distance, and since there are only two, you won't spend huge amounts of time figuring out where the hell your car was towed to, which happened to me in NYC and was truly a nightmare. I also have no doubt the new companies would be just as unethical. The key issue is regulating them: if towing a car from a private lot is illegal without a call from the business that owns the lot, then these companies are regularly breaking the law, outright. I know Miami politicians are about nothing but connections and kick-backs, but I'm really disappointed in Gongora, I thought he had some integrity. There is absolutely no good reason for the fees to be so high, and the cost to the city in the goodwill of visitors makes it  stupid as well as unfair.

Ari Kane
Ari Kane

Sickening. Vote for Steve Berke as mayor. He will stop these greedy assholes.

Greg Ramirez
Greg Ramirez

thats y we dont go to to miami beach anymore fortlauderdale is the place nnow

Alessandra Cata
Alessandra Cata

Yep. The mia bch officers tickets have already there preffered tow truck co. Printed right on them.

Alex Howard
Alex Howard

Just read the article in it's entirety, this right here ladies and gentlemen is true journalism.

Andrea Domergue
Andrea Domergue

It looks like I am not the only one who avoids the beach, this can not be good for business.

Dirk DeSouza
Dirk DeSouza

They charge a $25 fee for something called "Tie Down". The translation of that is they take your seatbelt and loop it through your steering wheel. That 4.2 second process is $25. If they tow your car after 8pm, that's $30, called an After Hours fee (even though they work 24 hours a day). If you pick your car up in the morning, that's another $30 for "storage".

Oscar Sosa
Oscar Sosa

South beach continues to make itself unbearable to go to.

mitch107
mitch107

When the residents of the City of Miami Beach have had enough of this, they can and will petition the city council to change the rules governing towing. 

Or, they will vote them out and vote in members of the council who will change the rules.

gmfort13
gmfort13

Why aren't the Feds looking into this?  There's gotta be something fishy going on in City Hall.  One of the reasons me and my tax dollars left the beach.

insider
insider

Jimmy Morales thinks that we are dumb or he is the dumb... almost, and I repeat  a l m o s t  every department director in this corrupt city has been changed except the people that handle the gold mine called parking department, you can check internal audits reports (internal audit is a little annoying clown in the city, a paper tiger, an sad dwarf that keep crying and crying, there are no controls, there is no accountability and nobody pays attention to that little thing).parking permits: no control and of course no accountability; concession agreement valet services for the convention center, a joke, the valet company does whatever they want whenever they want and again, no control, no accountability and perhaps the same company will have the concession for three more years(not to mention the possible millionaire concession agreement for the big ass new convention center) ; concession agreement for the city owned garages, the poor little company always lose money they never have to give a penny to the city.

A few years ago an assistant city manager used to oversee parking but when jorgito gonzalez went down the opportunity to take over parking and all its monies was taken, there is an iron circle that nobody can penetrate, if you think that I am bullshitting check facts: why the former parking assistant director was forced to retirement? it is something related to a fishy contract for security cameras in the city garages, a decent law enforcement agency(not MBPD please!) could have a nice chat with this guy (former parking AD) and have him to sing the manicero.

Now the new parking assistant director is the same person that handle parking  finances,  yes, believe it or not, there is no segregation of duties at all, all the parking financial operations must be controlled for the iron circle, btw this person has been handling parking money for long, long time.  Do you think that the CFO of corrupt city does not know that there is a conflict of interests in there???  and who do you think conducted the interviews for that position?  the CFO of corrupt city and again, that sensitive position must stay inside the iron circle, who could be best that her own person inside parking??  please!!!  it is plain and simple an enormous red flag that may be the FBI will see.  and the tiny and ugly clown called internal audit can see no evil.

After the channel 10 report about corrupt city parking department cancelling tickets  for friends, connected people and others, the iron circle round the wagons and punished all the city employees, now they have to inform HR if they receive a parking ticket, but there was no consequences for the person that has the power and authority to cancel the parking tickets. the $uper parking director! not to mention that the channel 10 journalist spent 4 weeks trying to get an interview.

my grandma used to say that in Latin America when things are real bad people say "we need the Americans to bring some order"  I told her, grandma: here in corrupt city we need the Americans too

FBI, IRS, DEA, HS, ATF, NSA, ICE SOME BODY PLEASE HELP!!!

internetinternet
internetinternet

CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
INTERNAL AUDIT PROCEDURES
FOR THE PERIOD JANUARY 1, 2012 TO MAY 3, 2012

C. NUISANCE ISSUES/COMPLAINTS
1. Marcum to obtain a list of any complaints received by the City’s Chief of Police or the
City’s Parking Director. Marcum will select 10 complaints and verify that a written
disposition of the complaint was forwarded to the Permittee upon completion of the
investigation.
Marcum could not obtain a list of complaints received by the City but did inquire of
Tremont as to their policies on recording/addressing complaints. Per Manny Diaz Jr.,
Operating Partner at Tremont, complaints are handled on a case by case basis. There
is no formal log of documentation with regard to all complaints received by the tow
company. They believe that it is impractical to document every issue due to the nature
of the business and the mass amount of complaints received on daily basis. Manny
Diaz believes that the majority do not have merit.

nyhk69
nyhk69

So can people get an attorney and make a class acction law suit...? Maybe somebody do something...

bob123
bob123

"To not enforce illegal parking in these areas would be unfair and adversely affect our residents' quality of life."

umm, how about a simple ticket?

jimjam
jimjam

Thank you New times for providing with this excellent investigative piece.  

scamvictim
scamvictim

Can someone go undercover and create a bullet proof documentary...then play it at every city commission meeting from now till eternity.

Kenn Gambe
Kenn Gambe

finally an article on this city wide scam

RachelUnleashed
RachelUnleashed

Great article! Thanks for the continued tenacity with this major Miami Beach issue! :-)

eraxach
eraxach

Thank you Mr. Alvarado for this great article and for let us know the corruption of  politicians in our City


GODisGREAT
GODisGREAT

We can all sit here and gripe and think of ways to fix it, but these guys, Galbut, Menin, Mirmelli, etc. are the current Mafia in Miami so get used to it. We live in a corrupt city.

Diana Andrew-Lozano
Diana Andrew-Lozano

What can we do about this!!! Seriously.. I want to know! Gross! I sometime wish vigilante group focused on destroying these a holes.

swinghigh
swinghigh

@wholefoods You are wrong. The purpose of towing is to open up a parking spot. The purpose is NOT to punish, not to gouge, not to play judge and jury.

Also, article describes residents being illegally towed from their own condo parking spots.

 
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