Outside the Marriott Residence Inn in the 1300 block of North Market Street in Wilmington, WDEL discovered signs that read: “Guest parking: 20 minutes.”
Below these signs is a poster for National Auto Movers, which states that “unauthorized vehicles will be towed at the owner’s or operator’s expense 24 hours a day.”
The two signs are not allowed, according to Wilmington Mayor Deputy Chief of Staff Mike Purzycki John Rago.
“There cannot be signs posted around town regarding traffic or parking regulations without permission from the City of Wilmington, and those signs were not authorized by the city,” he said. declared to WDEL.
Rago said the city’s public works department was investigating the signage and would remove them “if necessary.”
Matt Lenzini, 42, of Bear, was not parked between those hotel signs on Tuesday, January 28, 2020. Instead, he parked in a nearby two-hour time zone to work in a co-working space nearby after a business lunch.
“There was a series of signs saying ’20 minutes’ … so I made sure I didn’t park there, then there was another set of signs saying there was two hours of parking between this place so i stopped by [and] made sure my car was in that area. ”
When he returned to where he had left his car after about 90 minutes, his gray 2008 Saab was gone and he discovered the same National Auto Movers tow signs that WDEL had found.
“Fortunately, I saw this sign, otherwise I would have assumed it had been stolen.”
Lenzini called the number on the sign and said a man who answered the phone confirmed they had his vehicle, but they “couldn’t speak at the moment” and hung up.
After learning that the company wanted $ 450 for towing and storage charges, he said he contacted the consumer protection unit of the attorney general’s office, and spokesman Mat Marshal confirmed that the agency was reviewing the complaint.
The next day, Lenzini called the Wilmington Police dispatcher, in which case a dispatcher told him that he had been advised that the car had been towed from “private property”.
But North Market Street is largely publicly owned, and only the city’s licensed towing company – which isn’t National Auto Movers – can remove a vehicle from public ownership.
“I was pretty livid yesterday. I was like, ‘That’s why I don’t come to Wilmington, that’s why I hate coming to town,’ because you hear these horror stories. a lot of money last night with my friends. I probably spent $ 300 on dinner and drinks … whim … it’s to the detriment of my desire to be there. “
Lenzini, who is in town about twice a week, has never had a problem parking in Wilmington before.
“I have heard stories from friends who have been through similar things: ‘My car was right there, what happened? “And it was towed,” he said. “Now it’s happened to me. It’s not great.”
A man who answered the phone at National Auto Movers told WDEL to call the hotel and ask them why they were towing cars.
Towing company: “Why are you calling us?
WDEL: “Because these are your signs, and your number is on the signs. ”
Towing company: “Well, call our lawyer. ”
When asked for this contact, he said “yes” and hung up.
The second time WDEL contacted the company, a woman answered the phone and also requested that we speak to her legal representative. When asked for the contact, she also refused to release the information and hung up.
The voicemail of Marriott Residence Inn general manager Billy Gunn Jr. was full. WDEL therefore left a message at reception to request a call reminder on Wednesday afternoon. This call has not been returned at the time of publication.
Lenzini’s situation is eerily similar to another case of illegal towing involving the same WDEL company revealed last week. Dominique Grant parked just in front of The Queen on Market Street on Saturday January 18, 2020, in the evening, in an area which was marked with a loading zone “except Saturday and Sunday”.
Grant’s car was also towed away by National Auto Movers, who made no comment and hung up when WDEL contacted the company about the incident. The Queen’s chief executive did not return a request for comment.
When Grant went to pick up her vehicle from the towing company’s property on South Market Street, they had waived all charges, but in order to get her vehicle she had to sign a waiver – admitting that her car had been illegally towed – but refusing his right to collect damages. She refused and the towing company still has her vehicle.
After the WDEL report was released, Grant said a man named “Louis” told him to come and collect his vehicle. She told them she would see them in court. She filed a writ of Replevin in the Court of Justices of the Peace, claiming $ 8,000 in damages. She continues to take a Lyft or the bus to work every day.
Lenzini, who said being without a car was a serious ordeal limiting his ability to work, said he would consider a similar step.
“One, they got it wrong, and two, the rate and the fees are extortionate,” Lenzini said. “That’s the first thing my dad said to me. He said, “They practically stole your car; they illegally took your car. A private company does not have the right to take your property. [from public property while it’s on public property]. ‘”
“It really drives me crazy. It’s a bad image to have for a city that already has a bad image, especially in an area where we are trying to grow and develop. Market Street is an area where a lot of money is. invested; people are trying to rejuvenate the area, and you hear something like that, and it’s just, like, ‘Well I’m not going there, and I’ll tell my friends not to go . ‘ It’s a bad look. “
Rago said the city is taking the issue very seriously.
“We are going to review the towing company and verify their practices regarding towing vehicles from public property; no towing company has the authority to tow from public property, which includes sidewalks, curbs, streets. etc., ”Rago said. .