There is illegal towing happening in Denver. It is against the law in Denver to tow your car from a pay lot open to the public. Even if you don't pay for your parking space, you can only get a ticket. Despite these laws, it keeps happening.
As the owner of Stop-N-Park, Mike Sanchez manages hundreds of parking spaces downtown. The city has received dozens of complaints about Sanchez since 9Wants to Know began investigating him last year.
"We have received more complaints about Stop-N-Park and Mr. Sanchez than every other parking lot management company combined," Tom Downey, Denver's director of Excise and Licenses, said.
Those complaints are coming from people like Gigi Healy. Her car was illegally towed from a lot near Coors Field during a Colorado Rockies game. Not only did she pay a $200 tow bill, Healy also got a collection notice for an unpaid ticket issued by Stop-N-Park.
"I just think that there's an injustice. To now have a potential collection over something that they acted illegally. I didn't act illegally," Healy said.
Sanchez is accused of operating without a license and having dozens of people illegally towed. The fines are adding up.
"It's up to around $19,000," Downey said.
Sanchez has not returned numerous phone calls nor answered the door at his office during repeated visits by 9Wants to Know.
Investigator Will Ripley did track Sanchez down in January and he refused to answer questions directly.
"If I can just get back to you, I'd appreciate it," Sanchez said, later adding, "We're not in the towing business" before closing and locking his door.
Sanchez may not answer our questions, but he will have to answer to a judge on May 21 to face those $19,000 in citations from the City and County of Denver.
Sanchez has applied for licenses so he can continue doing business in Denver. So far, the city has denied each application.
9Wants to Know first began investigating rampant reports of illegal towing last year. Since then, Denver's made drastic changes in the way lots are licensed and monitored (tp://www.9news.com/news/article.aspx?storyid=266603).
"We have seen nearly a complete falloff in illegal towing," Downey said.
Not all towing is illegal, even though some feel is predatory and infuriating. Downey says you need to pay attention to where you're parking. Private lots have a right to have you towed, even if your car has only been there for a matter of minutes.
"If you don't see a sign where it says you are okay to park there, the default is: don't [park there]," Downey said.
Deborah Williams' car was towed on Sunday while she was having brunch at Snooze. Williams says she parked in an open space at 7th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. A parking monitor hired by the property manger reported her for parking in a space reserved for another restaurant, Anthony's.
"It just feels like an absolute violation. I had to hand them $275 in cash," Williams said.
In an email, Anthony's owner John Le Bel said, "All of our businesses have suffered since Snooze moved-in due to the parking issue."
A representative for property-management company Chandell Development says tenants requested assigned spaces to alleviate the problem.
"Our landlord recently changed the parking policy to reallocate spots and ease the management process for the tenants with new signs in order to rotate spaces for customer use. On occasion, when signage is not read, guests parked in wrong spaces become frustrated and unfortunately take their anger out on local business owners working to improve the overall business environment. It's never good when you get your car towed, regrettably, this was case in this incident," Le Bel said.
9Wants to Know also spoke with Snooze Manager Adam Schlegel, who told us the restaurant has tried to work with the other tenants to resolve the parking problems.
"While I'd strongly oppose any statement that we're monopolizing the parking or hurting any business...we do want to ensure the diverse offerings that make 7th & CO a great place provide what our guests need. Hopefully we can find a common middle ground. We do sincerely apologize to any of our guests who have experienced a frustration with this situation and hope to resolve it soon," Schlegel said in an email.
At least half a dozen customers who came for meals on Sunday left with expensive tow bills.
"I feel like I'm an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire. And they're trying to make a point to each other, and now I'm out $275," Williams said.
Tow companies point out that everything they do is regulated by the state, although Lonestar Towing and Mile High Towing and Recovery declined to be interviewed by 9Wants to Know.
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission regulates the towing industry and does penalize towing companies for illegal activity.
If you feel you've been wronged, to file a formal online complaint:
For the City and County of Denver's online complaint form for all licenses, visit www.denvergov.org/businesslicensing and you can find it down on the left side of the page.
Share your towing horror stories on www.facebook.com/ilike9news.
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