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Controversial St. Petersburg tow company stole semi, overbilled owner, police say

ST. PETERSBURG — The owner of Apex Towing, the company caught in controversy over towing vehicles near Tropicana Field earlier this year, was arrested Thursday morning in the towing and burglary of a semitrailer truck.

Phillip DeCelles, 43, was called Tuesday to remove a semitrailer truck from Tina's House of Angels, 3080 34th St. N, police said. Apex Towing didn't have a large enough tow truck, so DeCelles called ABC Towing.

DeCelles paid ABC Towing, police said, then fraudulently created another invoice — one for the truck and one for the trailer — so he could double the charge to the owner.

DeCelles charged the owner $1,112, so the owner complained to police. DeCelles told detectives the truck and trailer were separated when towed. ABC Towing said that wasn't the case.

When police went to his business to arrest him on Thursday, DeCelles was found inside the semi with the dashboard of the vehicle off. A passenger side window also was removed. Police said DeCelles told them he was trying to hot-wire the semi so he could move some stuff in his lot.

He was charged with grand theft because of the overbilling and auto theft. DeCelles was released from Pinellas County Jail Thursday night on $4,000 bail.

DeCelles told the St. Petersburg Times he charged for two things because the semi and trailer are separate. He has to file information with the police for each, so that's how he charged it, he said.

"If I'm wrong, I'm wrong," he said. "But arresting me isn't the way to do this."

DeCelles was last in the news in April after people covered "no parking" signs at an apartment complex near Tropicana Field and charged fans to park there. Apex Towing had a contract to remove unlawfully parked vehicles, so some fans had their cars removed. Police said Apex Towing did nothing wrong.

But DeCelles was charged the next day with scheming to defraud, a felony. Police said he misrepresented himself as the owner of another towing company and then towed a vehicle from a different lot.

Controversial St. Petersburg tow company stole semi, overbilled owner, police say 09/10/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 10, 2010 10:10pm]
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