A member of a politically powerful Miami family wants to carry the torch for those stung by Miami Beach’s much-maligned tow truck operators and has filed a class action lawsuit accusing a company of illegal towing from private lots.
Raul Mas Canosa, businessman and youngest brother of the late Cuban-American business magnate and anti-Castro lobbyist Jorge Mas Canosa, is alleging he was wrongfully towed from a private parking lot in South Beach in January. He’s suing Tremont Towing, one of two city-sanctioned companies that have wreckers roaming the streets. The suit has no named plaintiffs other than Mas Canosa.
It’s been a rough month for both companies, which are situated in a small industrial swath surrounded by the fast-growing neighborhood called Sunset Harbour. News of the Tremont suit comes a week after lawyers for developer Bradley Colmer, a managing principal at Deco Capital Group, sent a letter to City Hall accusing Beach Towing of operating its tow lot illegally in violation of zoning laws. That issue has not been resolved. The underlying issue is that Deco Capital wants the city to grant a height increase for a planned condo-retail development nearby and Beach Towing is objecting.
Raul Mas Canosa is the youngest brother of the late Jorge Mas Canosa, founder of the Cuban American National Foundation and multinational infrastructure engineering company MasTec.
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Mas Canosa, uncle of current MasTec CEO Jose Mas Canosa, says he parked his car at 9:30 a.m. in a private lot next to the Bank of America at 930 Washington Ave. on a Sunday in January, when the bank would have been closed. When he came back around 11:30, the car was gone. He later had to pay Tremont $241 in cash to get his car back.
The suit alleges that Tremont did not have the right to tow the vehicle because county law says private property owners have to authorize each individual tow with a signature. In other words, owners can’t make a blanket request to tow companies to remove vehicles after business hours without case-by-case approval.
“People who have had cars towed have the right to say, ‘Let me see the report. Let me see who signed it,’ ” said Ervin Gonzalez, the Coral Gables attorney representing Mas Canosa. “The general request is not legal.”
Ralph Andrade, attorney for both towing companies on the Beach, told the Miami Herald he’s confident the lawsuit will be dismissed.
“Mr. Mas admits he trespassed on private property by leaving his vehicle unattended for an hour and a half,” he said. “Rather than accept responsibility, he attempts to shift the blame on my client for allegedly failing to follow a Miami-Dade County regulation that does not apply in Miami Beach.”
The scuffle will likely come down to the legalities of city versus county regulations and what is considered appropriate authorization for towing.
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Tremont is not to be confused with Beach Towing, the outfit down the street who has its own legal problems. Tremont is the company featured in South Beach Tow, a staged-reality cable series.
Because the city gets a cut of towing revenue, the city of Miami Beach is named as a defendant in the Tremont suit, which was filed April 1 in Miami-Dade County civil court.
Gonzalez said that if money has been inappropriately collected by towing companies, it should be returned.
Miami Beach City Attorney Raul Aguila declined to comment on the suit Friday evening because the city’s legal department is still reviewing the case.