Department of Justice files lawsuit against Tampa, Fla. Towing company for illegally selling car owned by deployed serviceman
(STL.News) – The Department of Justice today filed a lawsuit in the Middle District of Florida alleging that Target Recovery Towing Inc. and Target Recovery & Transport Inc. (together “Target”) have violated the law Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), by failing to obtain a court order before auctioning off a car belonging to a United States Marine Corps sergeant who was deployed overseas.
The SCRA, which provides a wide variety of financial and housing protections for members of the military, prohibits towing companies from auctioning military vehicles without a court order.
The law requires towing companies and other lien holders to determine whether property in their possession belongs to a military person. The complaint alleges that several facts should have warned Target that the owner of the vehicle was a military person, including that the Marine Corps sergeant’s car had at least one military sticker, military documents were in the car, his registration address was at a United States Marine Corps Base, and she obtained her vehicle loan through the Navy Federal Credit Union.
“Imagine returning home after honorably serving your country to find that your only means of transportation and its contents are gone and lost forever due to the ruthless disregard of the law by a towing company,” the attorney general said Deputy Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the rights of men and women in our armed forces and to putting an end to these illegal business practices. “
“The law is clear and unequivocal,” said Maria Chapa Lopez, United States attorney for the Central District of Florida. “We owe it to all military personnel to vigorously protect their rights while they are deployed to protect our rights and our freedom.”
In addition to seeking damages for the service member, including the value of the auctioned vehicle and its contents, the Justice Department is seeking to prohibit Target from illegally auctioning service members’ vehicles to l future in violation of SCRA. The lawsuit also calls for civil penalties against the defendants.