By Matt Petrillo

WILMINGTON, Del. (CBS) — Drivers are crying foul after they believe their cars were illegally towed while parked near a Marriott Hotel in Wilmington, Delaware. They say they were also pressured to hand over hundreds of dollars in cash to the tow company.

Drivers are urging people to be extra careful over where you park in and around downtown Wilmington. That’s because your car could be illegally towed by a private company that has no contract with the city even if your car is on a public street.

“They had no right to tow my car,” Mandy Miller said.

Miller parked her car on the 1300 block of Market Street near the Marriott Residence Inn last week. She ran into her yoga studio to grab some things and within minutes, she said her car was gone.

Miller then noticed a non-city sign that reads “guest registration parking, 20 minutes.”

(credit: CBS3)

Below the sign is a number to National Auto Movers. Miller called that number and then went right to the impound lot.

“When I got there I said, ‘How do you charge $350?’ She said, ‘Because your car’s been impounded. We notified Wilmington police,’ so they scared me a little bit,” Miller said.

She’s not alone.

“I think they wrongly took my car from me,” Matt Lenzini of Bear, Delaware, said.

He also parked on Market Street, just outside of the Marriott last Tuesday.

When he came back with time to spare, he says his car was also towed away by National Auto Movers.

“They told me it was towed because it was on private property. Obviously, this is public space, Market Street is public space,” Lenzini said.

But later, only CBS3 was there as crews took down the unauthorized parking signs that had been placed in front of the Marriott.

(credit: CBS3)

 

“A lot of people are investing money into Market Street to redevelop it. Having this image that people can go around towing cars illegally is not a good image to have for the city,” Lenzini.

So far, the Marriott has not answered a message Eyewitness News left asking why the hotel did not seek authorization with Wilmington to put those non-city signs on a public street.

Eyewitness News also has not heard back from the attorney representing National Auto Movers.

Wilmington City says if you think your car was illegally towed by National Auto Movers, to contact its Public Works call center at 302-576-3878.

Wilmington says the cars it tows is through another company.

If you think you were a victim, tell us your story HERE.