VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The Justice Department filed a lawsuit on Friday alleging that a Virginia Beach-based towing company failed to obtain a court order before auctioning off vehicles belonging to at least seven soldiers protected by the SCRA, 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 military vehicles without a court order.
Federal law requires towing companies to determine if a vehicle in their possession belongs to a military member.
The complaint alleges that several facts should have alerted Steve’s Towing that the Navy SEAL vehicles belonged to a military member, including that the vehicles were towed from a military base. One of the vehicles also contained a sports bag filled with military uniforms.
“Blatant disregard for 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 steps to ensure that all service members harmed by unscrupulous actions receive just compensation. We must end illegal business practices that cause harm and distress to those who selflessly serve in our armed forces.
In addition to seeking damages from those affected by the vehicle sales, the Justice Department is seeking a court order preventing Steve’s Towing from illegally auctioning military vehicles in the future.