Justice Department today filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for
the Eastern District of Virginia alleging that Steve’s Towing Inc. in
Virginia Beach, Virginia, violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
(SCRA) by failing 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. The SCRA, which provides a variety of financial and housing
protections to members of the military, 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 and one 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
In addition to seeking damages for the Navy Seal and the other
affected servicemembers, the Justice Department is requesting a court
order preventing Steve’s Towing from illegally auctioning off
servicemembers’ vehicles in the future. The lawsuit also seeks a civil
This lawsuit is the result of a coordinated effort between the
Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s
Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. The complaint contains
allegations only; there has been no determination of civil liability.
Servicemembers and their dependents who believe their SCRA rights
have been violated should contact the nearest Armed Forces Legal
Assistance Program Office. Office locations may be found at http://legalassistance.law.af.mil/.
The department’s enforcement of the SCRA is conducted by the Civil
Rights Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section and U.S.
Attorney’s Offices throughout the country. Since 2011, the department
has obtained over $476 million in monetary relief for over 121,000
servicemembers through its enforcement of the SCRA. Additional
information on the Justice Department’s enforcement of the SCRA and
other laws protecting servicemembers is available at www.servicemembers.gov.