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Justice Dept. Sues Towing Company for Auctioning Service Members’ Cars

April 20, 2022 by Tom Ramstack
Justice Dept. Sues Towing Company for Auctioning Service Members’ Cars

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The Justice Department is suing a Virginia towing company it accuses of towing and auctioning the vehicles of military service members while they were deployed on active duty.

The lawsuit says Steve’s Towing Inc. of Virginia Beach violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which grants financial protections to active duty service members.

The law requires creditors to obtain court orders before seizing assets of military personnel.

“The flagrant disregard of a law designed to protect the rights of those in military service will not be tolerated,” Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a statement.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which Congress last updated in 2003, can postpone or suspend financial obligations of military personnel while they are on active duty and away from home. Typically, the law prevents apartment evictions, mortgage foreclosures and vehicle repossessions.

In the Virginia Beach case, Steve’s Towing is accused of auctioning vehicles of at least seven service members protected under the law, including two vehicles belonging to a member of a Navy SEAL team who was deployed overseas.

The Justice Department lawsuit was filed on their behalf in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The complaint says an unnamed Navy SEAL team member parked his two cars across from his unit’s headquarters in Virginia Beach, beginning in October 2019. The vehicles had Arizona license tags.

The Justice Department says in January 2020 Steve’s Towing towed the two vehicles, then filed a request with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to take ownership of them. The towing service should have contacted the Arizona Department of Transportation, where the vehicles were registered, before assuming they could be towed for parking illegally and auctioned, the lawsuit says.

“The Department of Justice is taking action to ensure that all service members harmed by unscrupulous actions receive just compensation,” Clarke said.

The lawsuit seeks damages, a civil penalty and a court order prohibiting Steve’s Towing from auctioning seized vehicles without court orders.

The owner of the company did not return a phone inquiry from The Well News.

Tom can be reached at tom@thewellnews.com

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