The owner of a Lower Keys tow company was arrested Thursday on felony charges of theft and fraud after allegedly charging AAA, the roadside assistance organization, for tows that never occurred for members that didn't exist.
Frank John Sciortino, the 49-year-old owner of Scott Bros. Towing, allegedly defrauded AAA Auto Club South, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association, of more than $60,000 between July 2011 and April 2012, according to an arrest warrant from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.
Detective David Cruz began his investigation after meeting with Geoffrey Reis, a former employee of Scott Bros. Reis told Cruz that after working for Sciortino for a few months, Sciortino told Reis he could make additional money by purchasing fictitious AAA memberships with Visa gift cards and using Magic Jack to obtain phone numbers for the memberships and by using "an address that would not get mail from AAA delivered properly," the warrant states.
Reis told Cruz that once the AAA membership was purchased, "Scott Bros. Towing would call AAA and act like the member and request service for their vehicle," the warrant states.
The auto organization then paid Scott Bros. weekly payments for service calls that were for supposed AAA members,
The investigation revealed that Scott Bros. allegedly billed AAA for 156 long-distance tows of 70 miles or more for 17 different AAA members who purportedly lived in Key West, Big Coppitt and Cudjoe Key.
"All 17 addresses were contacted and there were no actual AAA members at any of the them," said sheriff's spokeswoman Deputy Becky Herrin in a press release. "Detective Cruz contacted 35 final tow destinations, none of which had a record of the vehicles in question."
Sciortino was arrested about 11 a.m. Thursday and was released on bond shortly after 4 p.m.
He denied the allegations and has hired a lawyer.
"At this time I can assure you that these allegations have no merit," Sciortino told The Citizen upon his release.
"I serviced AAA and all their members for almost 20 years. My loyalty to AAA was unsurpassed. Unfortunately, a vindictive competitor who clearly wanted me out of the tow business, including malicious ex-employees who now work for that company, succeeded in fabricating allegations against me. Because of those actions, they are now the new AAA service providers for the Key West area. How sad that the towing industry has become so nasty and cutthroat to put my lifelong business and family at risk. This is absolutely absurd."