Although the companies don't provide revenue figures, they each tow roughly 450 cars per week, according to a former high-ranking city official. At $205 ( the Miami Beach resident rate) or $241 (the tourist rate), that means they rake in $92,250 to $108,450 every seven days. That doesn't include the additional mileage and administrative charges tacked on to each bill.

How do they translate that profit into political power?

City law bars Beach and Tremont from raising cash for candidates. But there is nothing stopping them from donating money to candidates outside of Miami Beach. So when Commissioner Jonah Wolfson's wife, Andrea, successfully ran for county circuit judge last year, she received $2,500 in bundled contributions from Beach Towing; Festa, a storage company Festa owns; and two employees. Tremont and 35 companies with the same address as Galbut's company, Crescent Heights, each gave Andrea's campaign $500, for a total of $17,500.

Pat Kinsella
Pat Kinsella

Location Info

Map

Tremont Towing

1861 Bay Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Retail

Region: South Beach

Beach Towing

1349 Dade Blvd.
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Retail

Region: South Beach

Perhaps not coincidentally, when both companies lobbied hard for a rate increase, their biggest champion on the dais was Jonah Wolfson. During the June 6 commission meeting, then-City Manager Jorge Gonzalez tried to get commissioners to require the tow companies to provide the city with background checks on all employees and to install GPS devices. "Here's your chance to get your accountability measures," Gonzalez said.

Wolfson balked. In fact, one former high-ranking city official who asked not to be named says Gonzalez's opposition to the tow rate hike is the real reason Wolfson started a move to fire him — a movement that ended with Gonzalez's resignation in June.

"Jorge was never in favor of giving them an increase," the source says. "He was standing in the way of Beach and Tremont making an additional million dollars a year."

Six months later, with Gonzalez out of the way, Wolfson again led the charge to raise tow rates. "This is not a tax," Wolfson proclaimed. "This is something people get charged if they leave their car in the wrong place."

Wolfson vehemently denies doing favors for Beach and Tremont even though both firms supported his wife's judicial campaign. "Because we're talking about the tow companies, you want to make it salacious," he says. "My response to asking me if political contributions had something to do with my vote is, 'Go fuck yourself.'"

Of course, Wolfson is just one Miami Beach pol backing Beach and Tremont. Commissioners Deede Weithorn, Jorge Exposito, and Michael Gongora, who is now a candidate for mayor, voted with Wolfson to give the two companies their rate hike at the November 2012 meeting. "People are doing something bad," Gongora said. "This is essentially punishment for people parking in residential zones and parking where they shouldn't park."

The only way to remove the grip Beach and Tremont have on towing in the city is to open up business to firms from across the causeways, Wolfson continues. And that is not ever happening. At least not on his watch.

He says: "If you send people who are here on vacation off the Beach, you end up with a situation where they are traveling to dangerous neighborhoods like Opa-Locka and Liberty City where they'll get their heads shot off."

Gongora is certainly not going to take them on either. He describes Beach and Tremont as "horrible, necessary evils." Phillip Levine, another mayoral candidate, says towing is a "necessary public service in our city."

Even Tobin — who is not up for reelection and voted against the tow rate hike — concedes the city to Beach and Tre­mont. "I don't know that it would be any better without a monopoly," he says. "I think it would be worse if any tow truck could come in here to pick up cars."

The only candidate taking a stand is entertainer Steve Berke, who lost in his bid to beat incumbent Mayor Matti Herrera Bower two years ago.

Berke says that as mayor, he would instruct the city manager and city attorney to require Beach Towing and Tre­mont to pay their drivers a flat hourly rate with no incentives for the number of vehicles towed or have the city completely take over towing operations in Miami Beach, which would kill the duopoly.

"These companies are supposed to be performing a public service," Berke says. "It is a shameful, disgusting state of affairs and an embarrassment to our city."

Tow companies' response from Rafael E. Andrade, Esq.

Below is my only "on the record" response to all of the questions presented. It is respectfully requested that my statement be included in its entirety and without any edits. Based upon past articles and the questions presented, it appears that the story is going to be an unfair, biased, and misinformed attack on the Miami Beach towing industry and my clients. Since a "cover story" is afforded ample print space, I trust that you will honor my request and print the following unedited statement:

"The towing industry in the City of Miami Beach provides necessary and essential services that promote the health, safety and welfare of the community by removing vehicles that pose a hazard to traffic and pedestrians, vehicles involved in police investigations, and vehicles that illegally park in areas that require residential parking permits. On-street parking in the City is insufficient and residents actually pay a fee for a permit that allows them to park in designated areas. To not enforce illegal parking in these areas would be unfair and adversely affect our residents' quality of life. Similarly, towing is necessary for the orderly operation of private businesses. Those that illegally park and interfere with the use of someone else's property have no right to that space. The towing companies exercise caution and diligence before a vehicle is removed and spend considerable resources to investigate all claims and allegations against them. Most are determined to be without support. When a mistake is made, it is corrected. In November 2012 the City Commission adjusted the towing rates for the first time since 2004 based on CPI. That process was thoroughly debated at countless public meetings and was completely transparent. Bottom line, vehicles are towed due to criminal or civil violations of the law, and the towing industry simply provides a necessary, albeit at times unpopular, public service to the City and private businesses within the City."

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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 topcommenter

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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