Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Federal suit alleges Collier family sold contaminated land to state. (WGCU)

Government buying contaminated land, again. It almost happened here in St. Johns County last year, but fortunately alert activists halted County Land Acquisition Management Plan purchase of contaminated land from the family of former Mayor of St. Augustine Tracy Wilson Upccurch.  Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, as established by the sorry story of the Lake Apopka Bird Kill, which killed thousands of federally protected migratory birds.  Query: Did anyone in power in SJC ever thank anyone for blowing the. whistle in St. Johns County?  You tell me. From WGCU:  

Federal suit alleges Collier family sold contaminated land to state

A lawsuit filed by whistleblower alleges that one of Florida’s most prominent, powerful and wealthy families – the Colliers – bamboozled the state of Florida into paying $30 million for a site near Everglades National Park while concealing the fact that it was contaminated with lethal hazardous waste.
A lawsuit filed by whistleblower alleges that one of Florida’s most prominent, powerful and wealthy families – the Colliers – bamboozled the state of Florida into paying $30 million for a site near Everglades National Park while concealing the fact that it was contaminated with lethal hazardous waste.

A lawsuit unsealed Thursday in a Florida federal court claims one of the state's most prominent and politically connected families — the Colliers — lied to state officials and covered up a hazardous waste site contaminated with lethal Creosote. 

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Myers, alleges claims by Sonja Eddings Brown — described as a longtime aide to family matriarch Parker Collier and a "whistleblower" — that the Colliers bamboozled the state of Florida into paying $30 million for a site near Everglades National Park while concealing the fact that it was contaminated with lethal hazardous waste.

According to court documents, the land, previously the subject of at least ninety claims of cancer deaths, neurological diseases, infertility, respiratory disease, and birth defects among neighboring residents, was sold as an "environmental win" to protect 10 to 11,000 acres adjacent to Everglades National Park from potential oil drilling. 

The documents allege that the Collier family sold it personally, uniting local environmental groups behind them, but withholding the land’s toxic past.

"This case centers on a businesswoman and matriarch of a powerful Florida family, Parker Collier, and the unlawful acts she perpetrated to enrich herself by engineering the promotion and sale of 8,000 acres of land contaminated with deadly creosote in the Everglades ('Everglades Parcel') in May 2023," the "Nature of the Case" portion of the suit claims. "Not only did this sale relieve the Colliers of the burden of continued remediation obligations under the decades-long Consent Decree they signed with the State of Florida ('Consent Decree'), but Mrs. Collier and her family actually made money from the polluted land—nearly $30 million."

Check with WGCU.org later for more on this breaking news story.

WGCU is your trusted source for news and information in Southwest Florida. We are a nonprofit public service, and your support is more critical than ever. Keep public media strong and donate now. Thank you.


Monday, July 15, 2024

JSO descends on ASAP Towing during ‘active investigation’ on city’s Westside. (Travis Gibson, News4JAX, July 11, 2024)

From News4JAX:

JSO descends on ASAP Towing during ‘active investigation’ on city’s Westside

Sky4 flying over ASAP towing Thursday.
Sky4 flying over ASAP towing Thursday. (Sky4)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Multiple  members of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office showed up on Thursday at a Westside location of ASAP Towing to execute a search warrant, a spokesperson confirmed to News4JAX. 

It wasn’t immediately clear what the search warrant was related to, but a JSO spokesperson said it’s an “active investigation.”

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During the afternoon, JSO officers were seen carrying boxes out of the 103rd Street location and placing them into a vehicle.

News4JAX has asked for more information regarding this investigation. 

The tow company has been under fire recently when residents of a St. Johns County neighborhood accused the company of “preying” on people who parked there.

Travis Gibson headshot

ASAP Towing owner says JSO investigation into possible organized fraud is retaliation for ongoing legal dispute. (Anne Maxwell, News4JAX)

From News4JAX: 

ASAP Towing owner says JSO investigation into possible organized fraud is retaliation for ongoing legal dispute

Warrant alleges ASAP Towing’s Westside location is being used to conceal evidence related to theft and organized fraud

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) believes people at an embattled Jacksonville towing company may be concealing evidence in violation of Florida theft and fraud statutes.

The JSO investigation appears to be following the money made from unclaimed cars sold by ASAP Towing, which was served with a search warrant by officers on Thursday. When a sale yields more money than it costs to impound the vehicle, those funds are supposed to be filed with the Clerk of Court.

The warrant, provided to the I-TEAM by ASAP Towing, shows JSO sought documents pertaining to the sale of vehicles, bank statements for all locations, or “any instrumentalities possessed or used in connection with the illegal activity.”

RELATED: Tow company accused of ‘preying’ on residents of St. Johns County neighborhood after cars towed from driveways

The company’s owner told News4JAX on Friday that he’s done nothing wrong.

Vince Serrano, President and CEO of ASAP Towing and Storage, said all four company locations were served on Friday.

He also said he’s cooperating and alleged the Sheriff’s Office is retaliating against him due to a legal dispute.

“I’ve done nothing but be a good steward for the people of Jacksonville. And when we impounded cars, I do my best fiduciary responsibility to get them all their monies that are due,” Serrano said.

After News4JAX posted a story Thursday about the warrant being served, dozens of people commented and claimed the company’s business practices are shady, and said things like they only take cash on the weekends.

“Well, you know what? I looked at all those comments, every single one. And the one thing that they all have in common: they were towed,” Serrano said.

ASAP Towing
ASAP Towing (WJXT)

Last year, JSO removed ASAP Towing from its rotation of tow companies after finding it removed a dozen cars from apartment complexes without the complex managers present, as required.

n a letter to the towing company, JSO wrote that it found an ASAP Towing employee also had an outside company that was being used to sign off on tows from apartment complexes, including a case where the property manager hadn’t approved removing the vehicles.

ASAP filed a lawsuit claiming that a property manager can give permission remotely.

MORE: Jacksonville company accused of towing, auctioning cars of deployed soldiers, sailors paid $100K settlement

Serrano said ASAP handed over documents related to the sale of 46 vehicles on Thursday, financial records from 2020 to the present and computer data images.

“Basically, all of our entire business,” he said.

Serrano said his business started with just one truck and it now has over 30. He declined to share how much profit ASAP Towing makes, but said when it comes to revenue, it’s “$10 million company.”

Serrano told the I-TEAM he lives in a $3 million house and thinks JSO doesn’t believe he deserves it.

“You know, a lot of people don’t want to see people do well. It’s an unfortunate thing in America. But I’ve worked really hard, honest day’s work for my entire life,” he said.

The warrant alleges ASAP’s Westside location is being used to conceal evidence related to theft and organized fraud worth more than $50,000.

Serrano is not facing charges right now and JSO said it’s an active investigation.

Anne Maxwell headshot

I-TEAM and general assignment reporter



All Comments

    1. Comment by Lauren de Ford.

      My grandmother was married to the father of the owners. That whole family is awful. Nice house, though, sure.

      • Comment by D D.

        Remember a story, most likely here, of him bragging about how successful he and believe his wife have been in this business. Very arro-gant. Several years ago. 

        • Comment by Stephen prevatt.

          If you're innocent and you can prove it I would sue the pants off of sheriff's office and local television stations for defamation of character and slander ├ánd other violations 

          • Comment by Rob D'Chambre.

            Once a thi ef, always a thi ef.

            • Comment by Yah duh da.

              Move it yourself. There’s no law against it yet.

              • Comment by Blonde Bomb.

                Speaking to this station just sealed the deal.

                • Comment by Al.

                  This towing company has done dirty deals with people broken down. This is not revenge. Hopefully they get shutdown, and a reliable less expensive towing company is created.

                  • Comment by Food4thought.

                    Great. Be prepared to wait an extra hour in traffic for every accident now while waiting for the wrecked cars to be cleared. 

                    • Reply by factsmatternow.

                      Right, because these towing companies are so efficient at cleaning up debris and removing wrecked cars....lol

                    • Reply by Rob D'Chambre.

                      No difference.other companies will take over the business

                  • Comment by Doctor Wizard.

                    The fact that they only take (untraceable) cash shows they are up to no good.

                    • Comment by Youdontownme.

                      Are there two “divisions” to ASAP? I have always used them to tow my car when needed and never had a problem with them. 

                      • Comment by Will.

                        It’s not gonna be a $10 million dollar company for much longer, better look into downsizing from that $3 million dollar home from all those ill-gotten gains. 

                        • Comment by LONEWOLFF.


                          • Reply by Blonde Bomb.

                            Brilliant! And I agree.

                          • Reply by Melsnews.

                            C.....l....e......v.....e.....r work-around! And ASAP always at the bottom of my list. 

                        • Comment by Don'tTreadonMe66.

                          Predator towing big in MD too...gonna get someone arrested...

                          • Comment by Suzyqueue.

                            Content deactivated , my experience doesn’t matter 

                            • Reply by Jax Lifer.

                              Must have used negative words. They seen to automatically deactivate the posts.

                            • Reply by john marshall.

                              You're not allowed to use adjectives to describe how you feel about an issue because you may upset somebody with the opposite opinion...

                          • Comment by joeybusta@yahoo.com.

                            Typical tow bill from ASAP: Tow $100.00

                            Hook up fee: $150.00

                            Labor: $200.00

                            After hours fee$100.00

                            Mileage: $50.00

                            Gate fee$89.00

                            Admin fee: $150.00

                            Fuel surcharge fee: $75.00

                            2nd tow truck needed at scene: $200.00

                            Clean up fee: $40.00

                            Car cover/wrap protector: $50.00

                            Fee for Ins to inspect vehicle: $59.00

                            If you think this is a joke you are sorely wrong. This is no joke. I see these bogus charges every day from ASAP and multiple other tow companies. 

                            • Reply by Blonde Bomb.

                              Highway robbery... literally!

                            • Reply by Yah duh da.

                              It’s just a easy way that they can take one’s valuable asset hostage, knowing that they can charge anything they want because it belongs to someone else.

                          • Comment by JaxS0nVille.

                            They broke into my father-in-law's semi truck to move it so they could try and tow it. He was in town passing through and parked near Walmart because the truck stop was full. Got an alert his truck was moving. After getting an hour of sleep after a 16 hour shift, I drove him to his semi just in time. The tow drivers pretended like we were physically threatening them to cause a scene so they could claim self defense. I called the police. When the police got there, the semi was eventually unhooked from the tow truck. They still tried scamming us out of money for a "unhooking fee" . They damaged the front of the semi when unhooking. This company is corrupt. 

                            • Reply by factsmatternow.

                              Sue them

                          • Comment by Clay.

                            "Honest days work".....that is hilarious, and so far from the truth

                            • Comment by Mr. Bimmler.

                              Dude's gonna be on the hook for some coin.

                              • Comment by Kelly.

                                They constantly stalk my condo complex in southside. Towed my daughter's car and had to threaten to call the police to get it back and they would only take cash!

                                • Reply by Food4thought.

                                  Try not parking in Disabled Parking spots and Fire Lanes. It works wonders. 

                                • Reply by factsmatternow.

                                  Report them to the IRS

                              • Comment by Jax’s fan.

                                Illegal towing Is there company motto 

                                • Comment by Tango.

                                  The community would benefit from this company closing down for good 

                                  • Comment by Godowntowntogetmugged.

                                    Maybe all the service members cars yall towed while they were over seas?

                                    • Comment by facts matter.

                                      Predator towing

                                      • Reply by Clay.

                                        BEST COMMENT

                                    • Comment by T. White.

                                      I got arrested in 2007, they towed my car which is cool but they took my portable PlayStation out the car then in 2017 my truck got stuck in the dirt on 103rd no more then 10mins from them and they charged me $450 just for a pull. This they karma,I hope they go bankrupt and in debt! 

                                      • Comment by cummingsdad.

                                        I've watched asap tow 100s of cars illegally. Seen people park cars, walk inside and asap hooks up to the car. About a month ago they towed a delivery drivers car while he was helping a handicapped lady take her groceries inside her house. They are cro oked.