Car theft victim rejects free auto

June 24th, 2015 8:04 pm

First Posted: 3/29/2013

WILKES-BARRE — The 82-year-old woman at the center of price-gouging allegations directed at the city’s towing contractor has declined the offer of a free vehicle from an area auto dealer after her car was stolen, returned in damaged condition and junked.

America’s Choice Cars & Credit Inc. on Blackman Street had a gold 2002 Oldsmobile Alero with a book value of $9,995 ready for Natalie Aleo.

She appreciated the gesture, but on Friday said she could not accept the car because of her financial situation. The insurance coverage — coupled with the cost of taking care of the house she lives in and one she’s trying to sell — would be too much.

“I just can’t do it,” Aleo said.

For transportation, she’s been relying on family and friends.

The offer of free wheels still stands if she changes her mind, however. Robyn Smith, sales manager at America’s Choice, said Aleo’s case attracted the attention of company owners Ronald Smallcomb and Gary Debise. “If no one helped by now, someone needs to,” Smith said, explaining the owners’ interest.

They had helped out a customer from the Bloomsburg area a few years ago whose house was destroyed in a fire just before the start of the school year. “They basically just tore up the loan,” Smith said.

It’s been nearly four months since Aleo’s 1993 Oldsmobile Sierra was stolen in Wilkes-Barre and found in Plymouth. LAG Towing, which has the city’s towing contract, transported the car to its lot off Carey Avenue.

It sat there until Leo Glodzik III, LAG’s owner, contacted Aleo in January to informed her of its whereabouts. Wilkes-Barre police failed to notify her that the car had been recovered.

Aleo and Glodzik later disputed what would have been covered by the the nearly $2,000 figure supposedly quoted to her to retrieve the auto. She said it was to pay towing and storage fees, even though LAG’s contract precludes him from charging crime victims.

He said it was a hypothetical amount to repair her car that had a blown engine.

She handed over to Glodzik the title to her car because she was unable to pay the cost. He said he planned to salvage it.

City Councilman Tony George seized upon the case in his call for Mayor Tom Leighton to begin the termination process of LAG’s contract. No decision has been made yet on the issue.

Last week Glodzik returned Aleo’s car to her, but it had significant front-end damage, seemingly in contrast to the condition it was found. The Plymouth police officer who filed the incident report on the car did not note any exterior damage.

Mark Robbins of Forty Fort, an outspoken critic of Glodzik and LAG, raised $300 in private donations for Aleo and sought contributions at Tuesday night’s council meeting. Aleo politely declined to take the check that Robbins wrote for her.