Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Parking lot scam is an old trick

ST. PETERSBURG —Tuesday was not the first time sports fans have left Tropicana Field to discover cars they had paid to park in a nearby private lot had been towed away.

Patrons left Tuesday's season-opening Rays game to find their cars towed away from a lot at 511 16th St. S. Nycole Ellington-Jones of Tampa said she parked at the same lot for the Jan. 2 Under Armour All-American football game and experienced a scenario similar to Tuesday's. No-parking signs covered up. A $10 fee. Towed cars when she and her husband returned, with no-parking signs newly uncovered.

And a $109 fee to get her car from Apex Towing and Recovery.

Police charged Phillip DeCelles, the owner of Apex, for towing the cars in January without alerting police within 30 minutes as required by law. DeCelles was arrested Thursday for failing to appear in court on that misdemeanor charge.

Police are still investigating Tuesday night's incident, in which 30 people paid $10 each to park in the same lot. Apex said it towed five cars before the lot emptied out. Police said the towing company did nothing wrong and blame the attendants who charged to park on the lot.

Meanwhile, the Pinellas County Department of Justice and Consumer Services is investigating complaints it received about Tuesday's incident to determine if Apex violated county regulations, said chief investigator Larry Krick.

"We're aware of the situation and we are currently looking into it to see if everything was followed correctly," he said.

St. Petersburg police have increased patrols in private parking lots areas around the Tropicana Field. The Rays on Friday issued a statement titled: Rays Take Steps To Protect Fans From Parking Scams. The team's solution: park in designated lots.

But there might not be enough space in the official lots for this weekend's three-game stand by the visiting New York Yankees. Police say parking scams increase during heavily attended games, such as Tuesday's opening-season sellout.

Raquel Hernandez was among those scammed on Tuesday. She and her husband were late getting to the game, she said, and they initially passed the lot. After turning around, they got in a line of 10 other cars pulling into the lot. She did not see any no-parking signs.

She said the man who charged them $10 was wearing a Rays jersey, had a single gold tooth, a shaved head and was heavyset.

"When we came back to that same place, there was absolutely nothing there," said Hernandez, who is eight months pregnant. "No cars, and the sign that said '$10 parking' said 'Towing'."

They flagged down a police officer and explained what happened. While waiting, Hernandez said she saw an Apex tow truck drive by.

"It was awful," she said. "It's makes us not want to go back to any games, that's for sure."

Contact Andy Boyle at [email protected] or (727) 893-8087.

Fast facts

File a complaint

If you want to contact Pinellas County's Department of Justice and Consumer Services to complain about towing practices, you can call (727) 464-6200.

Parking lot scam is an old trick 04/09/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 9, 2010 10:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. David Letterman's friends — and shrink — make his Twain ceremony as funny as his late-night legacy

    The Feed

    For years, David Letterman, consumed by insecurities and the relentless pace of a nightly television program, would respond to the loud cheers of his audience with a strained smile and a half-scolding, half-embarrassed wave to "cut that out."

    David Letterman is honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, in Washington, D.C. [Owen Sweeney | Invision | AP]
  2. Target says customers want it to pause the Christmas creep


    NEW YORK — Target says customers want it to pause the "Christmas creep." It says it wants to be more in tune with customers' mindset, so it plans to ease in holiday promotions this year while better recognizing Thanksgiving.

     Target says customers want it to pause the "Christmas creep." It says it wants to be more in tune with customers' mindset, so it plans to ease in holiday promotions this year while better recognizing Thanksgiving. This is Target's new store in Manhattan's Herald Square that opened last week. 
[Kavita Kumar/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS]
  3. Foo Fighters coming to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa


    It's times like these we learn to love Mondays again.

    Foo Fighters
  4. Lightning needs to hold onto Sergachev


    Here’s hoping the Lightning holds onto Mikhail Sergachev.

    Mikhail Sergachev has scored his first three NHL goals in his last two NHL games.
  5. Developers raise offers for city-owned land

    Local Government

    TEMPLE TERRACE — Two of the four developers under consideration to buy and build on city-owned land in the downtown redevelopment area have upped their offers by $1 million or more.

    Temple Terrace city  council-member Cheri Donohue asked for detailed plans from developers bidding for redevelop-ment prop-erties.