County officials say a tow truck driver posed as a Good Samaritan but was exactly the opposite and took drivers on an expensive ride.
Hanna Zhuromskaya says she was stranded after an accident near Miami International Airport.
"He told he would help me, and he would tow away my car," she said.
She said she thought tow truck driver William Lopez came to the rescue but now says he took her for a ride – more than $900 to tow and store the car for one day. She said even in pricey South Beach the flat rate is $250.
County investigators say Lopez broke the law by telling drivers he was sent by their motor club, when he had nothing to do with their call for help and he allegedly also cut off the real towers working for the county, or cities.
"In the middle of the night while they were stranded, after their cars broke down or were involved in an accident, this tower arrived and offered its services, allegedly misrepresenting its prices, and then holding them hostage to get their car released," said Leonard Elias, Miami-Dade County's consumer advocate.
The county says Lopez would wait in locations and he was so fast, he beat police to the scene and one woman says he told her not to call the Florida Highway Patrol.
Zhuromskaya and 20 others called the county complaining about Lopez and the owner of South Bay Wreckers, Yoel Alfonso. Drivers say the pair took them for almost $12,000 in overpriced fees. The county says there could be many more victims and now it's taking Lopez and South Bay Wreckers to court hoping to get the drivers' money back.
Elias says towers cannot solicit people. They must show their entire cost in writing, and drivers should call the police if it does not sound right.
"He said because I didn’t call the police that day he had to charge me more," Zhuromskaya said.
The owner of the tow truck company denies all the allegations. Meanwhile, Lopez’s attorney says the county did not deliver the lawsuit to his client properly. Despite that, they are trying to get all the alleged victims' money back.
The county is trying to find Lopez. If you know where he is, call the consumer advocate at 305-375-3677.