JACKSONVILLE, Florida. –The owner of a Jacksonville driving school who was accused of taking people’s money without giving driving lessons is now in jail, charged with trying to lure a child online.
It’s a worrying twist in a News4JAX I-TEAM investigation that began with customer complaints about the company taking their money and not providing the services.
Cody Satornino, 31, who identifies himself as the owner and operator, entered Duval County Jail Sunday night on charges of using a computer to seduce or lure a child, child abuse and transmitting material harmful to minors.
A judge sets his bond at $300,000 and appoints a public defender to represent him. The court also ordered that he have no internet access, no contact with the children or the alleged victim.
News4JAX has filed a public records request for police reports and warrants that will provide further details on the allegations underlying the charges.
A heavily redacted police report linked to the company’s address shows a report of sexual assault with a victim over 12 and under 18 with the suspect over 18. Detectives from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department’s Special Assault Unit investigated and collected a DVD with messages as evidence. Information on victims and suspects has been redacted due to the nature of the allegations.
“Please try calling again later.” That’s the message Zaniah Walker received when she called My EZ Pass Driving and Traffic School in Jacksonville. She tried several numbers to no avail.
She hired the company in June for driving lessons to get her first driver’s license. Her first class was July 5. At the time, it was among the top 3 schools in the region, with a Google rating of 4.7. This was before most of the negative reviews were published.
She is 18 and studying to become a nurse. She worked two jobs to save enough to go to driving school and get a car, paying $595.00 for driving lessons via her debit card.
“I saved for a while so I could get my license because I go to school and I want to be able to drive myself,” she said.
She was on the right track. She said she took two driving lessons with owner and instructor Cody Satornino.
“He was very nice,” she recalls. “He had a lot to say. We talked a lot. Music. He told me his story. I thought we were going to be friends.
However, the emails show that his remaining eight classes in the package were constantly being postponed.
“And then I never heard from him again,” she replied.
She called, texted, emailed, and even showed up on a date. No answer. So she contacted News4JAX’s I-TEAM.
Walker is not alone. The I-TEAM has found at least 13 other people who said they also paid My EZ Pass driving school hundreds of dollars for lessons never took the lessons. They too claim they cannot reach owners or instructors, warning people to stay away from doing business with the company.
Allison Satornino, who said she represents the company, responded to some of Google’s comments by saying the company was unexpectedly shut down for medical and economic reasons. However, the note makes no mention of a refund.
News4JAX interviewed Satornino in January this year about the dangers of distracted driving. This was before allegations of bad business were made.
However, this time he did not return our phone calls when we tried to reach him about the growing complaints about his business.
When News4JAX visited the Riverside office of My EZ Pass Driving School, no one was there. Neighbors said they hadn’t seen much activity in recent months. An obituary shows that the original owner, Dennis Satornino, died suddenly in 2021.
In the back of the McDuff Avenue office was a damaged version of one of the school cars, with My EZ Pass logos and phone numbers on the side. He had been there for several days without moving, according to a neighbor.
The I-TEAM discovered Satornino’s arrest during a background check. Before that, he had only had minor traffic violations. The Clerk of Courts site initially had no details of the allegations besides the charges.
“I was hurt because I was really excited that he told me I was a good driver and I could pass my test,” Walker added.
She said she had no allegations of abuse or anything similar, but wanted her money back and still needed to get her driver’s license.
She hopes others won’t have to learn the hard way like she did.
“I want you to be safe there, you know,” she said. “Don’t prepay like I did and people seem friendly, always be on the lookout. Just want to warn them, please don’t go on My EZ Pass again.
Walker paid by debit card and disputes the charge with his bank.
The Federal Trade Commission notes most coverage comes with a credit card. If you have a fraudulent or erroneous charge, the agency advises you to report it within 60 days with documentation so the creditor can investigate and possibly refund your money.
If you have had any issues with My EZ Pass Driving and Traffic School, email News4JAX I-TEAM at [email protected].
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