By Dorothy Tucker

(CBS) – When a motorist’s car got towed, he desperately needed a few personal items from inside.

When he asked to retrieve the items from an impound lot, he was told: for a price.

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Kalen Tartt’s car was legally towed to GTS towing’s site in Dolton. He didn’t have the money to get it out. He just wanted his belongings, including his Social Security card, his ID and his birth certificate. The car was towed while Tartt was job-hunting.

The clerk told him: “If you want any of your belongings out of the vehicle it’s $190.”

Another clerk at GTS had asked for money and the vehicle’s title.

When CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker asked about the conditions, the clerk responded: “The owner of the company — those are his rules. It’s a private company.”

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But those rules could violate a state statute that says vehicle owners may claim certain personal belongings, including eyeglasses, food, medicine, a wallet, identifying documents, cash and credit cards.

Demanding cash can be an intimidation tactic to get unknowing customers to get their cars out.

Tartt eventually paid the full $425 to get his car back.

“I don’t think it was fair but I had to do it,” he says.

If a tow owner tries to make you pay to get your belongings out of your car you can show them the Illinois statute. Or, call the local police department.

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Dorothy Tucker