Imagine this, your car becomes disabled due to a massive highway snow drift and you’re suddenly faced with a choice, stay in your vehicle and risk freezing to death or dig out and trudge your way to safety.

For thousands of Washington DC drivers this was just the case as countless driver’s vehicles became disabled in the massive Arctic blast that pounded the region Friday. Surviving this dramatic situation should have been the happy ending to this snowy story, however, when the victims returned to retrieve their stranded vehicles many found them gone, towed by unscrupulous towing companies.

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Insult to injury. Opportunist towing companies had methodically towed the unfortunate folk’s cars and held them for a $250 ransom. One driver who made his way to safety said, “It was awful, I was lucky to make it out alive, then to find my car towed the next day, I was like, what else could go wrong?” The snow-tow victim found out “what else” as many cars were also ticketed by local police. “I couldn’t believe it, no one saw this coming, the snow was biblical,” said another stranded motorist, “it was like cops were taking advantage of a very bad situation.”

Despite mother nature’s wrath, tow trucks were still operational. Many of the hook and book bandits waited until the worst was over, then converged on the city, snatching up every car they could find, filling their tow yards and charging people big bucks to retrieve them. Authorities, seemingly in cahoots with towing companies, had ticketed many of the vehicles before towing companies snatched them up, leaving the drivers with a double whammy of fees and fines.

“They would not release my car until I forked over $270 bucks!” said another diverted driver, “I finally get my car back and I find a ticket frozen to the windshield. Protect and serve? How do these people sleep at night?”