A man whose truck was stolen from his driveway is now apparently on the hook to pay thousands in order to get it back.
Jay Daniels, an HVAC repairman for the New Rochelle School District, has been without his pickup truck for more than a year. What’s particularly frustrating is he knows where the truck is, but has been unable to get it back.
It all began on April 3, 2020, when he looked out the window of his Yonkers home and noticed his 2007 GMC Sierra was not where he’d parked it.
It was stolen overnight.
Daniels reported the theft to the Yonkers Police Department, which put out an alert to the surrounding police departments.
Six months passed without any word about his truck. Finally, on Oct. 15, he received a telephone message from Yonkers police. It said, “The New York City Police Department recovered the car.”
It was being stored at D and M Towing in the Bronx.
“I called the towing company figuring I’m going to pick it up,” Daniels said. “They tell me I owe them $3,000 in storage fees. My jaw hit the ground.”
When he asked why the charge was so high, he was told his truck has been sitting in the tower’s garage since April 4, 2020, the day after it was stolen.
“I couldn’t understand it. It’s crazy,” said, Daniels. “Why didn’t they contact me to say ‘we recovered your vehicle, come and get it?'”
It turns out his pickup had been left, by the thief, in the fire lane across from a firehouse at W. 139th Street.
An NYPD spokesperson told PIX11, “Officers issued a parking summons, which does not require a license plate check, and resumed patrol.”
Later that same day, because the pickup had not been moved and was blocking the exit used by the fire engine, a firefighter called nearby D and M towing at 859 Edgewater Rd. in the Bronx.
Consumer Affairs Department regulations require tow truck companies to “notify the local [police] precinct with two hours” of the tow.
D and M’s owner, Daniel Orozco, told PIX11, because of the pandemic, the driver was not allowed into the precinct, but an officer came out and was shown the towing receipt. The NYPD disputes that.
“We have no record of this vehicle being towed from the location on the date in question,” the NYPD said.
If police had been notified, the spokesperson said, the precinct would have checked the plate and discovered it was stolen — and Daniels would have gotten his truck back in one day.
Instead, it was towed to D and M’s garage the day after the theft and sat there for six months, with the NYPD allegedly knowing nothing about it — and neither did Daniels.
What took so long? Marie Orozco, the owner’s wife said part of the problem was COVID-19.
“Since mid-March, the business was closed due to the pandemic. My husband was infected with the virus for more than three months,” she said.
She claims after D and M reopened in July, her husband went to the 40th Precinct to try to find out “who the (truck’s) owner was and be able to send a letter to him,” she said. The precinct didn’t provide any info, she said.
The NYPD said it has no evidence that visit took place — or of the information being requested at all.
“The NYPD did not become aware that this vehicle was stolen until Oct. 15, 2020, when a tow operator notified the 40th Precinct in the Bronx,” an official said.
Three months after D and M asked for $3,000 to release the truck, and Daniels refused to pay, he received a bill totaling more than $9,000 in storage fees for 267 days at $35 per day. The 267 days includes all the time the business was closed. The $35 rate is significantly higher the Consumer Affairs $27 dollar maximum for storage.
However, after investigating, the Department of Consumer Affairs, which licenses towers and regulates the tow truck industry, concluded its jurisdiction did not apply to this case because “the tow was from a fire lane across from a firehouse.” DCA told PIX11 to contact the NYC Department of Transportation.
We did, but the DOT said its towing rates and rules do not apply to private tow truck companies.
The departments released a joint statement:
“Unfortunately, this is a unique situation that is not clearly outlined in the City’s towing regulations. We will be taking a closer look at these regulations with our sister agencies.”
D and M has told a DCA mediator it will release Daniels’ pickup for $4,000. He refuses to pay and had to take out a loan to buy another truck for work.
“I just want my vehicle back,” he said. “I mean, we didn’t make any mistakes. Somebody obviously dropped the ball…Within less than a week, I could have had my vehicle back, and here it is over a year later.”
D and M Towing is threatening to sell the truck at auction. It’s not clear if it has any right to do so.
Daniels never signed an agreement to have it towed or pay storage fees.
We’ll continue investigating and keep you posted.
If you have a comment or story idea, email Arnold Diaz at Arnold.Diaz@pix11.com.