Car towing companies target Sweetwater residents including university students

Leaving your car wrongly parked in your building might cost you hundreds of dollars, and your vehicle will be towed right in front of you. That’s what 109 Towers resident Caitlin Castillo says happened to her by Prestige Auto Towing company. 

“I got towed, and he had just hooked the car and still made me pay $150,” says Castillo. “I was gone for less than five minutes.” 

Student residents say Prestige has overcharged students up to $500 while towing vehicles. Many claim to have seen tow trucks hiding in a corner, waiting to hook up residents’ unattended cars, and now people are speaking out about it. 

“I parked my car downstairs at 8 p.m., and when I got up at 6 a.m. to go to work, it was gone,” says Kyshawn Eulett, another 109 Towers resident. His fine added up to $560 because his car had to stay in the company’s garage for five days since he did not have the money immediately to pay it.

Miami-Dade County has a maximum towing rate of $145 for Class A vehicles, with $38.20 charged past the first 24 hours every day after; however, if the car is still at the property but hooked up, tow companies are legally required only to charge you $72.50. 

Miami Dade also requires tow companies to accept multiple forms of payment, but Prestige only accepts payment through Zelle/Venmo or cash. 

109 Towers Resident Dayana Oviedo was the first person to put in an official complaint and explain how her car was targeted and was in the middle of being hooked up to a tow truck while she brought in groceries. She recalls being gone for less than five minutes. 

“Right as I’m going out the door, I see him pulling the tow truck in, right he lifts my car,” says Oviedo. “I told him I live here and asked him, ‘What are you doing? This is wrong.'” 

She was charged for a hookup, costing about $72.50, even though her car was still not chained. The reasoning behind the tow was that she allegedly parked on the outside of 109 Towers roundabout, inside the garage.

Because the building has no loading zone, residents were told that the inside of the roundabout is a 15-minute parking zone for students. However, no clear indication of this rule is posted in the garage. She filed a police report immediately after it happened.

Currently, the City of Sweetwater has no tow regulations specific to their city, unlike Hialeah or Coral Gables. The lack of laws allows tow companies to practice “predatory towing” and wait for students to leave their cars unattended and hook them up while hiking up prices to have them release the vehicles. 

Lieutenant Gilver Paz of the City of Sweetwater PD explained that while Sweetwater does not have its city ordinances, it follows the Miami-Dade regulations, meaning Prestige Towing still violated them. 

“[Their rules] are on the Miami-Dade county website, and that’s the law for all of Miami-Dade cities,” says Lt Paz. “We follow their lead.”

Another 109 Towers resident, Karla Rodriguez, claims she was charged the wrong amount for her car being towed. While her car was still on the property, she was set at $145 for a hookup when it should have been $72.50. Prestige claims that she was parked in a no-parking zone as well. 

“We got into another argument because he told me, ‘If you pay me $145, I’ll drop the car right here,” says Rodriguez. “I work full time. I’m a full-time student. I still have to pay a lot of stuff off by myself. How can you charge people like that here? I was pretty sure that he was overcharging me.” 

Rodriguez filed a consumer protection complaint and was issued a partial refund.

Sweetwater PD has been made aware and is attempting to contact as many people as possible who have had similar experiences. They have a case open and are gathering information for their legal department. Lt Paz said that students targeted by these tow companies can call the City of Sweetwater Police Department and file a complaint. 

“Anytime they are towing and [students] need us, we’ll go out there,” says Lt Paz. “They tow many vehicles out of there but cannot tow from the streets. The apartment management hires them.”

A resident made the property owner of 109 Towers, Cortavious Givens, aware of the situation. He emailed back that he would be looking into the case and requested to meet with the owner of Prestige Auto Towing.

“I am more than happy to speak with any tenant regarding their experience and displeasure with the towing service,” says Givens. “I encourage anyone who may have had a not-so-pleasant experience to contact me.”

Givens, however, is adamant that the contract between 109 Towers and Prestige Towing is entirely ethical and that all those towed violated parking rules. 

Prestige Towing was called multiple times over a month for comment but, at this time, has not responded. 

Izzy Canizares was born and raised in South Florida and is studying Digital Journalism as well as Theatre. They have had two journalism internships at Just Begin Magazine as a writer and WSFL Inside South Florida as a Production Intern.