Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against Father & Son Moving & Storage for Unlawfully Auctioning off Belongings of Deployed Servicemember
BOSTON – The U.S. Attorney’s Office reached an agreement today with Todisco Services, Inc., a company doing business as Todisco Towing, to resolve allegations that it failed to obtain a court order before enforcing a lien on a vehicle owned by a U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant who was deployed overseas, in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
The compliant alleged that Todisco Towing impounded the Staff Sergeant’s vehicle, refused to allow him to pay the towing and storage fee by phone, and ultimately sold the vehicle and its contents, which included costly military tactical gear and several irreplaceable items of sentimental value, including a family photograph album and a sweatshirt belonging to a friend who is now deceased.
The SCRA provides financial and housing protections and benefits to military members while they are in military service. One of the SCRA’s protections requires anyone holding a lien on the property of a servicemember to obtain a court order prior to auctioning off, selling, or otherwise disposing of that property. This means that companies have an obligation – before selling or disposing of property – to determine whether the property is owned by a servicemember protected under the SCRA, and if so, obtain court approval prior to disposal. Companies can conduct a search on the Department of Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) website, to determine whether an individual is a protected servicemember.
Under the agreement, which must still be approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Todisco Towing must pay the Staff Sergeant $5,000 in damages and the United States a $1,000 civil penalty. Todisco Towing has also implemented new policies and trainings to prevent future SCRA violations.
“While he was serving our country overseas and protecting our national security, this servicemember had his car and items of deep personal significance sold off by Todisco despite his efforts to pay the outstanding fees. This is shameful treatment of people serving our nation as part of the armed forces,” said Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is strongly committed to enforcing the rights of the members of our military who sacrifice so much for all of us to enjoy freedom and security every day.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Levy made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Hillary H. Harnett and Torey B. Cummings handled the matter.
This lawsuit resulted from a referral to the Justice Department from the U.S. Air Force. Servicemembers and their dependents who believe that their rights under the SCRA may have been violated should contact the nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program Office. Office locations may be found at https://legalassistance.law.af.mil/. For more information about the Department’s SCRA enforcement efforts, please visit https://www.justice.gov/servicemembers.