7 On Your Side: Man's prized SUV disappears in AAA towing mystery

HOWARD BEACH, Queens (WABC) -- A Queens man was left in the lurch when his broken-down SUV disappeared for more than a week after being towed by an AAA registered company.

The towing company had no answers, and police were flummoxed -- it took 7 On Your Side to solve the mystery.

"I panicked," Arnie Avino said. "I panicked right away. That's my baby."

He was upstate last September at his country cabin in the woods nearly 200 miles north of the city when his 2007 Lincoln Navigator conked out in the Catskills.

"I got under the car, and I see brake fluid dripping out," he said. "And I said, 'I can't drive this home.'"

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Avino called AAA to tow the vehicle back to his home in Howard Beach, but the Navigator never arrived.

He again called AAA.

"I was calling, saying, 'Where is it? It's not here,'" he said. "He said, 'No, the driver, they dropped it off there.' He insisted. I said, 'It's not here.'"

He canvassed his neighborhood looking for his Lincoln.

"I drove around the whole neighborhood," he said.

He only found out where the SUV was located because he got a parking ticket. It turns out towing company had dropped his truck in front of a fire hydrant on 86th Street -- but not in Howard Beach, rather on 86th Street in Woodhaven.

Avino drove to the address on the ticket, about 4 miles away.

"I drove to 86th and Park Lane South, and the car wasn't there," he said. "They drove me nuts. I would get my hopes up that they found the car, and then they didn't."

So he turned to 7 On Your Side, and we went to AAA. They investigated, going door to door and finding out a Woodhaven resident -- not the police -- had it towed because the SUV was partially blocking their driveway.

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AAA apologized to Avino, even offering him a loaner car.

"Then all of a sudden, they treat me like I'm a king," he said.

AAA located his Lincoln, towed it to a garage to have it fixed, and paid the parking ticket.

After a week at the mechanic, Avino was reunited with his favorite 14-year-old on four wheels.

"I got my baby back," he said. "I'm in heaven."

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