HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. - When Tina Wheeler’s 2015 Toyota Corolla was towed away on Jan. 9 she thought it was an innocent mistake by a repossession company, months later it happened again.
“I’m kind of worried when I go outside from work and home it’s going to be gone again,” Wheeler said.
ABC Action News called the tow truck company that repossessed her car on Jan. 9. A representative with South Florida Auto Recovery said their client sent a repo order out on the car but closed the case the same day Wheeler’s car was taken out of her Hillsborough County driveway. They also told us they never took the car. But, drag marks and an empty driveway where Wheeler’s car was parked suggest otherwise.
When asked if the driver made a mistake the representative said they check the plates and the VIN and take pictures for verification and that the car was never repossessed.
During the Jan. 9 tow Wheeler called 911 and reported her car was stolen. She says deputies told her the vehicle had a repo order on it and didn’t believe her payments were up to date.
“They kind of berate you and they are like you are just a young girl you guys don’t pay your payments this happens all the time,” Wheeler said. “And, it’s like I’m showing you I paid my payments, you’ve already admitted this was a wrongful towing you guys just need to put some faith in me and it’s terrible.”
Wheeler, 21, is making the payments but her parents co-signed for her. Wheeler’s mom showing us a letter from Grow Financial confirming they are up to date on their payments and a month ahead. The letter also mentioned that the bank doesn't have a contract with South Florida Auto Recovery. Despite, the tow company telling us that the car was initially under a repo order by their client.
“I really feel helpless at this point,” Wheeler said.
When the car was returned to her the first time she said it had scratches on it, a nail in the tire, the battery was dead and the seats were stained and had dead roaches on the floor.
“I don’t know where they put the car but they didn’t return it in the same condition,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler provided ABC Action News with an e-mail from an Investigation Specialist at the Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement that oversees tow truck companies.
The e-mail stated that the investigation,
“contacted South Florida Auto Recovery and they provided the Driver information on the driver who conducted the repossession. Our investigation found the driver in question conducted Misconduct by repossession of the wrong vehicle has been fired from his position at South Florida Auto Recovery and the State of Florida took his repossession license. He is no longer authorized to conduct repossessions in Florida.”
That was in June, Wheeler thought her problems were over. But, on Nov. 9 her car disappeared from the parking lot of her workplace.
“The second time it is not a coincidence,” Wheeler said. “It is very awkward to park my car somewhere now, because I am running outside every fifteen minutes, gotta make sure my car is still there.”
When Wheeler called 911 to report her car was stolen she said deputies told her it was under a repo order. Nearly an hour later she said she found the car dumped in a strip mall near her office.
“I would hope nobody is following me and I honestly don’t know it’s such a confusing situation I don’t know who to go to, I don’t know where to go to,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler said she was told that there is speculation that there is another 4-door Toyota Corolla with the exact same license plate and similar VIN.
“That’s a little hard to believe,” Wheeler said.
She blames the tow company and law enforcement for not believing her when she told them her car payments were up to date.
“Just put some faith in me,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler said law enforcement wouldn't tell her the name of the tow company that took her car on Nov. 9.
We reached out to the state for more information and we were told by the sheriff’s office that they are looking into Wheeler’s case.