Stolen car almost sold by towing company

Police: Loophole allows towing companies free reign to commit a theft or fraud

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Just a week after dozens of cars disappeared from the Auto Mall, Daytona Beach police are concerned about what happened after those stolen cars were found and towed.

Local 6 found out at least one of the stolen vehicles was almost sold by the towing company because of what police call a loophole in the law.

Towing companies are reportedly not doing a good enough job of finding the owner. They then sell the car and pocket the cash. Police said it almost happened to car dealership owner Gary Yeomans after he tried to get his car back from Fryer's Towing Service.

"The towing company is claiming that it can't find the owner," said Chief Mike Chitwood. "The owner is claiming that they've called the towing company because they got the information that they towed it and they're saying the car is not there. Last week we went on the property and discovered that car."

Chitwood said it's all because there's a loop hole in the law.

"The way the statute reads, it basically gives an unscrupulous record company or towing company free reign to commit a theft or fraud."

Towing companies have 30 days to notify an owner by sending two certified letters and putting an ad in the paper.

"If he gets no positive response within that time, (the company) then titles the car to himself or holds a silent auction. That's where he bids on the car, and now he takes ownership of a $40,000 or $50,000 car for probably less than a $1,000," said Chitwood.

Fryer's Towing Service said they send out letters to owners and tried numerous times to get a hold of Yeomans but that it's hard to notify someone, especially if a stolen car isn't registered.

Local 6 asked what happens once the 30 days notice is up.

"Anything over the price of what's owed on it gets deposited with the county," said Glenn Landau.

Local 6 checked with Volusia County and a county spokesperson said that's not true. The county does not receive a dime when Fryer's Towing Service or other towing companies sell a vehicle.

"I think the law needs to be changed, but I also know there's unscrupulous wrecker companies, and the one who's under investigation right now are saying they are following the law, but we're going to prove that they've skirted the law," said Chitwood.

Daytona Beach police are working with the State Attorney's Office on this investigation and said the owner could face theft charges.

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