GPD conducts search of Advantage Towing


Gainesville Police Department officers serve a search warrant at Advantage Towing on Thursday morning.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 11:10 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 8:48 p.m.

The Gainesville Police Department on Thursday served a search warrant at Advantage Towing -- one of the Gainesville companies contracted to do trespass towing around the city -- in response to multiple citizen complaints, police said in a news release.

During the nearly two-hour search, officers and detectives retrieved numerous documents from the business, located at 907 SW Third St., as evidence related to potential crimes of improper lien or title transfer, improper or illegal trespass, or roam, towing and grand theft auto, police said.

Officer Jeff McAdams, GPD's towing administrator, said the investigation began when a car that Southeast Car Agency in Gainesville reported stolen was found to have been retitled in the name of Advantage Towing.

"There are a number of statutory requirements that a tow or storage company has to follow prior to titling a vehicle in their name if they cannot locate the owner," McAdams said. "Based on a preliminary look (at the documents retrieved from the search), it does not look like they followed proper procedure."

GPD spokesman Officer Ben Tobias told The Sun the investigators will continue reviewing a list of as many as 60 vehicles in which the vehicle identification, or VIN, numbers appear to have been improperly titled in the name of Advantage Towing.

During Thursday's search at Advantage, which is located on the south side of Depot Avenue, UF student Christine Tucker, 20, arrived to retrieve her vehicle towed by Advantage Towing just hours earlier. She said she'd been towed by Advantage three or four times since she moved to Gainesville three years ago, including twice in 2013. Tucker's boyfriend, Brent Hobson, 21, accompanied Tucker to the towing yard and said he also had been towed twice by Advantage, once from his front yard.

"This is the worst part of living in Gainesville," Hobson said of trespass towing headaches. "Even if a friend stops by your house for 10 minutes, they might get towed."

Advantage recently raised controversy when it towed numerous vehicles from the SunTrust Bank parking lot in downtown Gainesville during the Santa Fe College Spring Arts Festival the weekend of April 6-7. The city of Gainesville, which regulates roam towing, issued 10 citations to Advantage, which had a towing contract with SunTrust that had yet to go into effect.

Advantage has issued letters of apology and pledged to reimburse the owners of the vehicles towed. Advantage faces the possibility of a suspension from trespass towing activities because of the violations.

Advantage Towing is owned by Susan Forron, who formed the company after her husband's towing company, Ultimate Towing, was barred from removing illegally parked cars in Gainesville for six months. She incorporated Advantage Towing Company in May 2011, and Ultimate's assets then were signed over to Advantage, allowing Advantage to begin towing as soon as the permit cleared.

The Forrons on Thursday denied the allegations that served as the basis for the search warrant.

"As far as I know, the rules haven't changed and I've been filling out the paperwork the same way for 25 years," Susan Forron told the Sun Thursday night. "I don't make the titles, Tallahassee does. I would assume if I was doing it wrong, the tax office in Tallahasee would not let it go through."

Stan Forron said he expects Advantage Towing's name to be cleared soon.

"I hope the end result, when it comes out in our favor, I hope we have the same media circus and the cops come back out out here to announce it," he said. "I hope there's not just two or three sentences in the paper saying no charges were filed."

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