Department of Justice Reaches Settlement Agreement with Prince George County, Virginia, and the Virginia Retirement System to Enforce Servicemember’s Employment Rights
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Steve’s Towing, Inc., located in Virginia Beach, has agreed to pay $90,000 to settle a complaint that alleged that the company 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 complaint further alleged that the company engaged in a pattern or practice of violating the SCRA and had no policies, practices, or procedures in place to ensure SCRA compliance.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office launched its investigation after a Navy legal assistance attorney reported that Steve’s Towing, Inc., had towed two vehicles from a military base that belonged to a deployed Navy SEAL and then sold the vehicles without first obtaining court orders. One of the vehicles, a 1992 Toyota Land Cruiser HZJ73, contained evidence of the Navy SEAL’s military service, including a duffel bag of military uniforms and a Naval Special Warfare Development Group Sniper challenge coin. Under the SCRA, towing companies must determine whether a vehicle in their possession belongs to a servicemember; if that vehicle belongs to a servicemember, the towing company must obtain a court order prior to selling the vehicle.
“Servicemembers often rely heavily on their personal vehicles to commute to work and care for their families. A servicemember’s loss of a vehicle, therefore, can affect the military’s readiness,” said Jessica D. Aber, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “EDVA is dedicated to holding accountable businesses who do not uphold the right of servicemembers under the SCRA.”
“This case began with a member of a Navy SEAL team who returned home from an overseas deployment, only to find that a towing company had auctioned off two vehicles that he had parked at a military base,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This resolution will compensate all of the servicemembers whose vehicles were illegally taken from them while they were serving their country.”
Under the proposed consent order, which still must be approved by the Court, Steve’s Towing will pay $67,500 to the seven SCRA-protected servicemembers mentioned in the United States’ complaint, and will pay up to $12,500 to compensate additional SCRA-protected servicemembers whose vehicles Steve’s Towing may have sold without first obtaining court orders. The order also requires Steve’s Towing, Inc., to pay a $10,000 civil penalty to provide SCRA training to its employees, and to develop new policies and procedures consistent with the SCRA.
The resolutions obtained in this matter were the result of a coordinated effort between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia and the Civil Rights Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section.
The matter was investigated by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Deirdre G. Brou and Sean D. Jansen.
The civil claims settled by this Servicemembers Civil Relief Act agreement are 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 $481 million in monetary relief for over 147,000 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.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.