VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A lawsuit filed Friday by federal prosecutors accuses Steve’s Towing in Virginia Beach of illegally seizing and selling cars belonging to at least seven servicemembers, including a SEAL Team member while he was deployed overseas.
The tow company General Manager Lee Gilliam says as of Monday afternoon, he has not been served a summons in the case.
He also denies the allegations and says if he had known they were the cars of active-duty servicemembers, he would have never sold them.
“We have multiple vehicles on our impound now that are [military members’ vehicles], that we have not sold and will not sell. One of which has been over three years, a little over 1,100 and 10 days or so,” said Gilliam.
Federal court documents say the seizures violate the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
The SCRA prohibits towing companies from enforcing storage liens while servicemembers are deployed, and for 90 days afterward.
It also requires towing companies to get a court order before auctioning off servicemembers’ vehicles.
The lawsuit claims from about October 2019 to April 2020, members of SEAL Team 2 were deployed overseas.
Prior to that deployment, a SEAL Team 2 member parked two of his cars with Arizona tags in a parking lot across from team headquarters at JEB Little Creek.
The lawsuit alleges Steve’s Towing towed the cars in January 2020.
The suit then claims the company only asked the Virginia DMV for vehicle records, not Arizona.
A month later, it claims Steve’s Towing filed two storage liens on the SEAL Team member’s cars.
The suit alleges that same day, the company’s president reported to the Virginia DMV, that the company had enforced its liens by purchasing them from itself.
Gilliam says he followed their usual procedure in this incident.
“He could be active duty and he could be deployed, but the paperwork we came across that we have to file through the Virginia DMV did not report that,” said Gilliam.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for affected servicemembers and civil penalties among other things.
Gilliam also says it’s important to note base police call him to tow the cars and have done so as recently as this past weekend.
“You have to follow the law which we did. We followed everything my procedure which we did. Virginia DMV would have not issued a new title if we did not,” added Gilliam.