CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Chicago woman said she was duped by a tow company after her car accident last week - claiming the tower held her car hostage while demanding more than $10,000 to return it.
As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported Friday, an expert called the woman's bill "grotesque." And the company, Perfect Timing Towing, has a history of complaints.
A minor accident on DuSable Lake Shore Drive last week left Elaine Kelly on the side of the road with her Toyota RAV4 leaking coolant - when a tow truck rolled up.
"This tow truck proceeded to tell me that they were affiliated with my insurance," Kelly said, "that this would be nothing out of pocket, free of charge."
It sounded like an easy option, so Kelly signed the papers — which at that point listed no prices — and contacted her insurance company.
It was a call from her insurer that raised the red flag. Perfect Timing Towing was demanding $10,890.
"I really couldn't believe it," she said.
Max Schulze, owner of A-Carr's Auto Body, has reviewed thousands and thousands of tow bills over his business' 42-year history. We showed him Kelly's bill.
"It was absolutely insane," he said. "This was the most egregious chaser tow bill that I've seen in four decades. Grotesque."
Kelly's insurer told Perfect Timing they would compromise at $4,000, but the tower refused.
At that point, Kelly came to the yard at 421 N. Cicero Ave. — the company's address as listed on her paperwork — only to discover it belongs to a different trucking company. That company said several other upset customers, and even police officers, have shown up to its offices looking for answers.
Kelly filed a police report, and ultimately a demand letter from her attorney got them to release the car for $5,000. But Kelly said when she finally got it back, the car appeared more damaged - and the inside was ransacked.
She said her property was even stolen.
"All my sunglasses are gone," she said.
According to the Illinois Commerce Commission, Perfect Timing Towing was issued a license in July - and since then, the state has received 18 complaints. In that short time, Perfect Timing has been cited 14 times.
They were found guilty of two citations after failing to show up at a hearing. The others are still pending.
"I was told it's unethical, but not illegal — which was really surprising to hear," Kelly said.
When Perfect Timing didn't respond to our request for comment, Hickey spoke to an employee on the phone - who abruptly hung up on her after she identified herself.
When Hickey tried to call the company again, the call went to voicemail.
Kelly said she is lucky she got her car back at all — and now she wants to warn drivers who might find themselves in her position.
"I was definitely taken advantage of at the scene," she said. "I was in distress, I was lied to — and yeah, I very much feel like a victim."
The state told us the towing company has 30 days to pay their current fines. If payment is not received, their license will be revoked after proper notice.
The city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection said in a statement that it is investigating Perfect Timing Towing for proper licensure after receiving a fraud complaint through 311.
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