PLYMOUTH — The Plymouth police officer who recovered Natalie Aleo’s stolen car said it had no body damage when it was found, raising questions about how it sustained significant front-end damage that was evident when it was returned to her Saturday by Wilkes-Barre city towing contractor Leo Glodzik III.
Officer Anthony Gorey said he found the car, a 1993 Cutlass Ciera, parked on Gardner Street in Plymouth on Dec. 10. It had no damage other than the interior got a little wet from rain because the windows were left cracked open about one inch, he said.
“When it left Plymouth, it did not have any damage on it,” he said.
The description is in stark contrast to the vehicle that Glodzik, owner of LAG Towing, delivered to the 82-year-old Aleo’s home Saturday morning.
According to Aleo, Glodzik, who had taken possession of the car in January, returned it to her, saying he was tired of media attention her case drew after allegations arose that he tried to charge her nearly $2,000 in towing and storage fees, despite a provision in his towing contract that precludes him from charging crime victims.
The car’s front end was missing its grille and headlights and the hood was bent upward as if it had been in a collision, or had something back into it. The damage was so significant that Aleo said she opted not to repair it and instead had it towed to Valenti’s Scrap Yard in Edwardsville, which paid her $200 for the vehicle.
Gorey said he is certain the car did not have any body damage. He said he did not try to start it before it was towed because Wilkes-Barre police had not come to process the vehicle yet. The incident report he completed on the case did not note any exterior damage to the vehicle.
Told of Gorey’s statements Tuesday, Glodzik angrily refuted the officer’s description of the vehicle’s condition.
“What can I tell you? That’s how we picked up the car,” Glodzik said, referring to the damaged front end.
Asked how he thinks it got damaged, Glodzik said “I have no idea,” then asked a reporter “Why don’t you find out who stole it?”
Glodzik had towed Aleo’s car, which was reported stolen in Wilkes-Barre, as part of his exclusive contract to tow vehicles for the city. Due to an oversight in the Wilkes-Barre Police Department, Aleo never was notified the car had been recovered until Glodzik called her about a month after it was found.
Media attention of Aleo’s case led a number of other people to come forward to allege they, too, had been charged to recover stolen vehicles, or had otherwise been the victim of price gouging by LAG. The complaints led City Council in January to recommend Mayor Tom Leighton begin the process to terminate Glodzik’s contract.
In an email Tuesday, Leighton said his administration has not made a final determination on whether to proceed with terminating Glodzik’s contract.
“It remains an open inquiry, but we will announce a course of action in the foreseeable future. We will take this new information under advisement,” Leighton said.
Glodzik has repeatedly denied he charges crime victims. He says he told Aleo the fee he quoted her was an estimate of how much it would cost to repair the car, which he said had a blown engine. Aleo has disputed that, saying an LAG employee made it clear the fees were for storage and towing.
Unable to pay, Aleo opted to sign the title over to Glodzik. She said she never tried to start the car to confirm the engine was blown and did not inspect it for exterior damage because it was in a lower level of Glodzik’s garage, and she has difficulty using stairs.
“I was just going by what they told me,” she said.
Aleo said she was surprised Glodzik returned the car to her because Glodzik, in a Jan. 24 interview with a Times Leader reporter, said he had already sent the car to a salvage yard.The Times Leader last week confirmed the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation never issued a salvage title for Aleo’s car, indicating it was never taken to a salvage yard.
Glodzik hung up on a reporter Tuesday before he could be asked about that discrepancy.
His attorney, Joseph Sklarosky Sr., did not return a phone message.
Aleo was equally surprised to learn Tuesday that the Plymouth police officer said there was no damage to the car when it was found.
“If the police officer said there was no damage to it, it has to be the tow company that did it,” Aleo said.
Aleo said she’s not happy, but doesn’t feel she has any recourse at this point.
“Maybe they did it when they stored it. I don’t know,” she said. “I can’t sue him. I don’t have the money for a lawyer.”