ST. PETERSBURG — A towing company embroiled in controversy after it towed the vehicles of several fans outside Tropicana Field had its own tow trucks taken Friday by the U.S. Marshals Service.
The three Apex Towing trucks were seized as part of a civil action relating to a lawsuit against the company by a former employee, the Marshals Service said.
Vinny Cassara, 43, a former Apex Towing employee, filed a lawsuit against Apex in November 2008, saying he wasn't getting paid overtime, despite working more than 40 hours a week, according to court records.
A jury ruled on July 15 that Apex owed Cassara a judgment of $24,616 in unpaid overtime, liquidated damages and attorney's fees.
Cassara never got the money, so he enlisted the help of the Marshals Service to take the trucks, said Ron Lindbak, a deputy U.S. marshal in Tampa.
The vehicles were then given to Cassara, who took photos to celebrate the event.
"Tables turned for impound company," he said.
Cassara said he went to the owner of Apex, Philip DeCelles, and tried to work out a payment plan but DeCelles, 42, refused.
Instead, DeCelles offered to give him some junk cars that Cassara could sell on his own.
"I'm not a car salesman … so the Marshals gave the okay and I hooked up his trucks," Cassara said.
He said he's still willing to deal with DeCelles and give him back his trucks as long as he gets his money.
Neither DeCelles nor company officials could be reached Friday for comment.
The company was part of a controversy in April after it towed vehicles out of a lot that was meant for residents of an apartment building. Someone had covered up "no parking" signs and then took money from multiple patrons.
Apex Towing had a contract with the apartment owner and towed five cars.
Police said the company wasn't involved in the scheme, but that didn't stop the ire of citizens and St. Petersburg City Council member Wengay Newton, who pushed for an ordinance to require parking attendants to wear photos IDs.
A few days later, DeCelles was charged with scheming to defraud in April after police say he misrepresented himself as the owner of another towing company and then towed a vehicle.
DeCelles has denied the charge and said he had authority to tow the vehicle.
Staff writer Andy Boyle can be reached at (727) 893-8087 or [email protected]