Dallas towing company is found to be in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that the Dallas, Texas, based towing company United Tows LLC agreed to enter to a consent order resolving allegations of selling five servicemember-owned vehicles. The company violated of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The SCRA was enacted in 2003 and expanded the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940 (SSCRA), which was put into place to ease financial burdens on servicemembers during periods of military service. SCRA is more comprehensive and includes additional provisions. The current law specifically prohibits a towing company from selling a vehicle owned by a servicemember unless it has a court order.
The DOJ initially filed a lawsuit against the company in fall of last year, claiming that United Tows auctioned a car belonging to an individual in U.S. Air Force basic training in San Antonio, Texas. When the vehicle owner learned of the towing, he contacted United Tows and attempted to explain to the order that he was out of town on active duty. According to the complaint, “the owner of United Tows responded by telling the servicemember that she did not believe that he was in the military.” A subsequent investigation revealed United Tows had illegally sold at least four other vehicles owned by active duty servicemembers between October 4, 2014, and April 26, 2019, all under similar pretenses.
The proposed settlement is subject to approval by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. As part of the deal, United Tows will be forced to adopt new policies regarding the handling of these vehicles and implement new training requirements for its employees specifically pertaining to servicemembers’ rights. United Tows will also pay a $50,000 fine which includes $20,000 to compensate the originally identified servicemember, a $20,000 fund to be shared by the four additional servicemembers, and a $10,000 civil penalty.
The DOJ said that the towing company was disrespectful of those in active duty. “United Tows not only disregarded the legal rights of servicemembers, it made hurtful and dismissive comments about a member’s military service,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. “The members of our armed forces selflessly devote themselves to the defense of our nation and are deserving of our respect and utmost consideration. The Department of Justice remains committed to the vigorous enforcement of the SCRA and all other laws that protect our servicemembers.”
“United Tows violated a victim’s rights while he was selflessly serving his country,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah for the Northern District of Texas. “We were appalled to learn that this Airman came home from basic training to find his car sold at auction. The men and women of our armed forces represent the best among us, and we are proud to enforce the SCRA and other laws designed to protect them.”
By enforcing SCRA, since 2011, the government has collected more than $474 million in financial relief for over 120,000 servicemembers.