Storm Profiteer Probe Opens In Ocean County
Suspicions of ripoffs against Hurricane Sandy victims that surfaced with complaints against a Toms River towing firm spur Ocean County investigators to probe any and all allegations of storm-related profiteering.
A flurry of startling accusations against APK Towing developed after the firm was assigned to clear streets in Seaside Heights of idle cars during storm-related debris removal. APK holds the borough's towing contract.
Complaints of unauthorized towing and grossly inflated prices that spread like wildfire through social media raised concerns in the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. Both are probing the allegations to determine if a case exists.
"We are aware that there are allegations of excessive prices," says Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford. "They may or may not conflict with state law, and that's what we're looking into."
Ford is quick to caution that it will take solid evidence to determine whether any case, civil or criminal, exists. But she's formed the Hurricane Sandy Task Force to field complaints of unethical or illegal practices against storm victims, and she's urging people who think they've been targeted to call her office.
"People who feel they have been the victim of a crime related to the aftermath of the storm are encouraged to report that to their local police department or to the Office of the Ocean County Prosecutor," says Ford. "They should not under any circumstances try to confront someone they suspect of criminal activity, or to otherwise place themselves in a position where their safety is compromised."
County Senior Assistant Prosecutor Martin Anton heads the force. He can be reached at 732-929-2027.