I-TEAM: Accused tow truck company owners had overbilling complaints dating back 7 years

Owners of a Jacksonville towing company once used by local law enforcement agencies now face charges of organized fraud.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Owners of a Jacksonville towing company once used by local law enforcement agencies now face charges of organized fraud.

Gregory Gaylord, 64, and Garrison Gaylord, 29, with Southern Wrecker and Recovery were charged with third-degree felonies Monday after an investigation into their business practices.

Southern Wrecker & Recovery has been on law enforcement’s radar for at least a year.

A random inspection conducted by the Florida Highway Patrol last July revealed more than a dozen instances of customers being overcharged. The I-TEAM has also uncovered consumer complaints that go back more than seven years.

The consumer complaints against Southern Wrecker and Recovery date back to 2013, according to a document News4JAX obtained from the Florida Department of Agriculture.

A driver states Southern Wrecker and Recovery did not have any of their rates posted at their location and could not provide them a copy of rates when asked. The driver at the time requested a refund from Southern Wrecker and Recovery President and Vice President Greg and Garrison Gaylord, but it’s unclear if the money was refunded.

According to investigators with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the father and son now face criminal charges for organized fraud. The details of their arrests remain unclear, but News4JAX has requested the arrest warrants.

A July 2020 letter obtained from the Florida Department of Highway and Public Safety last year reveals 18 instances where the towing company overcharged customers for unauthorized fees.

A random inspection revealed customers were overcharged for

  • Environmental fees
  • Additional winching fees
  • Absorbent material fees

In the letter, Southern Wrecker and Recovery was warned that their contract with FHP was in jeopardy. The company was later removed from its towing rotation.

We wanted to know what rights you have as a driver if you are towed. News4JAX asked Better Business Bureau President Tom Stephens.

“Once they contact the towing company and say they want their car, to bail it out so to speak, the towing company has to make their car accessible to them within an hour, they have to provide them with a written invoice, itemized to what the charges are,” Stephens said.

Stephens said drivers should make sure to take pictures and videos of their vehicles and look for damage. Document everything just in case you need to dispute the service you received with the City of Jacksonville who oversees Duval County’s towing industry.

If the price to retrieve your car is exorbitantly high, Stephens said that’s the signal that the company may be trying to take advantage of the situation.

“The biggest red flag is overcharging, and things that aren’t normally part of towing like site cleanup,” he said. “If a car is involved in an accident and they’ve got to clean up the roadway that’s understandable, but if it’s towed away from a parking lot, because you were stupid enough to leave it there, without the owner’s permission, there shouldn’t be any cleanup for that, that would be one that I would dispute.”

If you’ve had an issue with a towing company, you can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or the Florida Dept. of Agriculture And Consumer Services.

If you’ve had an issue with Southern Wrecker & Recovery, we would like to hear from you, too. Send an email to tminor@wjxt.com to share your story.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.