The Department of Justice today announced that towing company Dallas United Tows LLC has agreed to enter into a consent order to resolve allegations that it illegally sold five military-owned vehicles, in violation of the law on civilian relief (SCRA).
The SCRA is a federal law that provides a variety of financial and housing protections for members of the US military. The law prohibits a towing company from selling a military-owned vehicle unless it first obtains a court order authorizing it to do so.
The department filed a lawsuit against United Tows on September 28, 2020, alleging the company auctioned off a car belonging to a man who was undergoing basic US Air Force training in San Antonio, Texas. The complaint alleges that when the member learned that his vehicle had been towed, he contacted United Tows and told them he was out of town on active duty. According to the complaint, the owner of United Tows responded by telling the serviceman that she did not believe he was in the military. United Tows sold the vehicle at auction without a court order while the serviceman was still completing his training.
A subsequent investigation by the department revealed that United Tows illegally sold at least four other vehicles belonging to active-duty military personnel between October 4, 2014 and April 26, 2019.
Under the proposed settlement, which is subject to the approval of the United States District Court for the North District of Texas, United Tows must adopt new policies and implement new training requirements. United Tows will also be required to pay a total of $ 50,000: $ 20,000 in compensation to the originally identified member; a fund of $ 20,000 to be shared by the four other soldiers; and a civil fine of $ 10,000 to the US Treasury.
“United Tows not only ignored the legal rights of the military, but also made hurtful and contemptuous comments about a member’s military service,” said Deputy Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Justice. “The members of our armed forces are selflessly dedicated to the defense of our nation and deserve our respect and utmost consideration. The Department of Justice remains committed to vigorously enforcing the SCRA and all other laws that protect our military. “
“United Tows violated the rights of a victim while serving their country selflessly,” said Acting US Attorney Prerak Shah for the North Texas District. “We were appalled to learn that this aviator returned from basic training to find his car up for auction. The men and women of our armed forces represent the best of us, and we pride ourselves on enforcing SCRA and other laws designed to protect them.
Service members and their dependents who believe their SCRA rights have been violated should contact the nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program office. Office locations can be found at http://legalassistance.law.af.mil/.
The Department of Justice’s enforcement of the SCRA is conducted by the Housing and Civil Law Enforcement Section of the Civil Rights Division and US prosecutor’s offices nationwide. Since 2011, the department has obtained more than $ 474 million in monetary relief for more than 120,000 military personnel through the application of the SCRA. Additional information on the Department’s enforcement of SCRA and other laws protecting the military can be found at www.servicemembers.gov.