In many cities, it is illegal to park a car against the flow of traffic. However, except for in Downtown and on one-way roads, Anchorage is not one of those places. That is why Daniel Lee was surprised to find his GMC Yukon Denali towed from near his South Anchorage home last week.

“I’m not sure exactly what time it got towed, but it looks like they were out around 4 or 5 in the morning,” he said.

Lee learned his car and four others in the area that night were towed by Madilynn’s Towing and Recovery. He said his car was towed from a public street, but Madilynn’s listed his case as a private property tow.

Renee Oistad, a spokesperson for the Anchorage Police Department, said she could not comment on this case because no charges have been filed. However, generally speaking, a towing company cannot remove a vehicle from a public street without consent from law enforcement.

“The Anchorage Police Department — or obviously any law enforcement [agency] — are the only ones who can have a vehicle towed off of a city, municipal or state street,” Oistad explained. “The exception, of course is an owner. If your own car breaks down in the road, you can have your own car towed.”

After involving APD, Lee eventually got his car back at no cost. However, frustrated with the ordeal, he wrote about his experience in a post to the Facebook group, Alaska’s Worst Drivers, which has more than 20,000 members. The post gained attention and people began sharing their experiences with Madilynn’s Towing, also accusing them of unfairly making money at car owners’ expense.

“We need to get the word out,” Lee said. “People need to protect themselves, especially if they don’t think their car was legally towed.”

One person who noticed the post was Matthew Croissant-Lucero, whose Mitsubishi was towed on Thanksgiving Day. He said Madilynn’s charged him a holiday fee and a fee for using extra equipment because his vehicle has a lowered suspension, bringing his total expense to $465.

“There was no notification slip from the municipality about needing to repark my car properly or anything that you would expect to see if it were APD calling these in,” Croissant-Lucero said. “It just seemed really fishy.”

He said seeing the Facebook page motivated him and he is now considering taking legal action.

“From this point, I’m hoping to maybe find a lawyer and maybe take him to small claims [court],” he said.

Brandon Transue, a co-owner of Madilynn’s Towing, spoke to KTVA off camera at the company’s South Anchorage office. He said in the cases last week, a former employee with a grudge likely called in the cars in order to create trouble for the company. Transue said the company would not intentionally do anything illegal or unprofessional. He added that he did not know towing cars from a public street without police permission was illegal, and has agreed to pay a fine for doing so.

Lee said if anyone has a similar experience to his, they should contact APD.

“They can make sure that the tow was legal and the tow was done by the books so you don’t pay for a tow that should have never been done,” Lee said.

APD has contracts with several towing companies. Madilynn’s is not one of them. 

KTVA 11’s Eric Ruble can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.