How does a 25 cent toll turn into a $268 dollar fine and a suspended license?
79 year old Tony Mercurio found out first hand that there is communication problem between the Florida Turnpike Enterprise and SunPass and it cost him his driving privilege.
In April Mercurio's wife Donna jumped on the Turnpike's Suncoast Parkway in Brooksville. Mercurio drove through the SunPass lane at the toll plaza, but did not have a transponder to pay the 25 cent toll electronically.
"I didn't know what to do, but I thought, well I'll turn around and I'll talk to somebody in a booth. Nobody was there so I picked up a slip and told me how to pay it," she said.
The Turnpike Enterprise has envelopes in the cash lanes pre-marked with the toll amount and plaza name if a motorist rolls up without change.
When Mercurio returned home, she and her husband wrote out a check for 50 cents and sent it to the state, in one of the pre-marked envelopes.
"We got a canceled check back, that they've cashed the check," Donna Mercurio said.
The Mercurios then drove north to Michigan for several months.
The Florida Department of Transportation cashed the check.
However the cash collections division at the Turnpike did not square the payment with SunPass.
So when the Mercurios returned to Brooksville in November, waiting for them were several notices of toll violations, citations and fines from SunPass totaling $268. There was also a letter from the state informing Tony that his license was suspended.
"I said bull, I am not paying it and I said to her (his wife) we are going someplace to get this straightened out," Tony Mercurio said.
Mercurio said he had no idea he was driving around on a suspended license and worries about what would've happened if he had been pulled over for a traffic infraction.
"They'd have thrown me in jail," he said.
After striking out with the Turnpike and the Hernando county clerk of the courts office, the Mercurio's decided to contact 8 On Your Side.
I reviewed their paperwork and forwarded it all to the Turnpike Enterprise.
Within a couple of days FTE public information officer Christa Deason wrote back.
"The issue got confused when Mrs. Mercurio used the pre-addressed envelope, meant for cash customers, to pay a missed SunPass toll.
"We don't as a rule cross check cash payments made with envelopes against SunPass violations."
Deason apologized for the confusion and said the fines and fees were cleared.
"The suspension of his driver's license has been cleared and is reinstated," Deason wrote.
Deason clarified that the envelopes in the lanes are to pay for cash tolls if drivers don't have change. Mailing that enveloped will not clear a SunPass toll.
"This has pointed out a shortcoming in violation payments and SunPass advises they will open a path with the cash collection department to make sure such an occurrence does not happen again," she added.
Maybe it would be a good idea if the state's left hand knew what the right was doing.
Tony Mercurio was also angry the state suspended his license, when he wasn't even in the car when it went through the toll.
"I'm the owner of the car and I get hung," Mercurio said.
"Thank you for helping me," Donna Mercurio told 8 On Your Side. "Thanks for getting it taken care of."
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