Feds say Virginia towing company illegally sold service members’ cars


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NORFOLK, Va. — Federal prosecutors have filed a lawsuit accusing a Virginia company of illegally taking and selling service members’ vehicles.

The lawsuit filed Friday accuses Steve’s Towing of Virginia Beach of illegally seizing and selling vehicles belonging to seven service members, including a SEAL Team member while he was deployed overseas.

Federal officials said in court documents that the seizures violate the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which requires towing companies to get a court order before auctioning off service members’ vehicles. The law also prohibits towing companies from enforcing storage liens while service members are deployed, and for 90 days afterward.

The lawsuit seeks damages for affected service members, a civil penalty, and a court order barring Steve’s Towing from auctioning off seized vehicles without court orders.

According to the lawsuit, two vehicles belonging to a SEAL Team 2 member and bearing Arizona tags were towed from a parking lot across from team headquarters at Little Creek in January. While Steve’s Towing asked the Virginia DMV for vehicle records, it did not check with Arizona.

Thirty-six days after towing the vehicles, Steve’s Towing filed liens $970 to cover storage charges for each vehicle.

That same day, company president Steven E. Gilliam, reported to the Virginia DMV that the company enforced the liens by purchasing both vehicles from itself for $500 each. The company never obtained a court order to do so.