VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The Justice Department filed a lawsuit Friday alleging that a Virginia Beach-based towing company failed to obtain court orders before auctioning off vehicles belonging to at least seven SCRA-protected servicemembers, including two vehicles belonging to a member of a Navy SEAL team who was deployed overseas.
According to court documents, Steve's Towing Inc. violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which provides a variety of financial and housing protections to members of the military. The SCRA also prohibits towing companies from auctioning off servicemembers' vehicles without a court order.
Federal law requires towing companies to determine whether a vehicle in their possession belongs to a servicemember.
The complaint alleges that several facts should have put Steve's Towing on notice that the Navy SEAL's vehicles belonged to a servicemember, including that the vehicles were towed from a military base. One of the vehicles also contained a duffel bag filled with military uniforms.
“The flagrant disregard of a law designed to protect the rights of those in military service will not be tolerated,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice is taking action to ensure that all servicemembers harmed by unscrupulous actions receive just compensation. We must put an end to unlawful business practices that bring harm and distress to those selflessly serving in our armed forces.”
In addition to seeking damages for the people impacted by the vehicle sales, the Justice Department is requesting a court order preventing Steve's Towing from illegally auctioning off servicemembers' vehicles in the future.