A Dallas towing company is accused of selling vehicles owned by members of the military while they served, federal officials say.
A lawsuit filed Monday by the U.S. Department of Justice says United Tows unlawfully auctioned five vehicles owned by service members, including an airman who had told the business he was in basic training before his car was sold. Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, tow companies must obtain a court order to sell vehicles owned by military members.
“When members of our military answer the call to serve our country, they should be able to do so without having to worry that their vehicles or property will be auctioned off while they are on duty,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said in a news release.
In the case of the Air Force member, he received permission to park his Toyota Corolla at a Tae Kwon Do studio where he taught classes while away at basic training in San Antonio, according to the lawsuit. With no apartment or family in the area, he didn’t have anywhere else to park the car. He also stored personal belonging in the vehicle, including a laptop, gym bag and personal documents.
United Tows is accused of towing the car in September 2017. After learning through a friend that his car was towed, the airman called the company to explain he was unable to collect the vehicle during basic training, but the owner didn’t believe he was in the military, the lawsuit says.
The friend went to retrieve the laptop, but it was missing and the gym bag was cut open, the lawsuit says.
The vehicle was auctioned without a court order after the airman was ordered immediately from basic training to another military base, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit says the tow company unlawfully auctioned four other vehicles owned by members of the Air Force, Army and Coast Guard between 2014 and 2019.
“The men and women who serve in the armed forces make immense personal sacrifices to keep our country safe,” U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox for the Northern District of Texas said in the news release. “This lawsuit is a powerful reminder that we will aggressively hold those institutions and businesses accountable who are required to comply with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Our military deserves no less.”