A San Diego storage company accused of selling off active-duty Navy service members’ property while they were overseas must now pay the victims nearly $170,000, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Across Town Movers and its owner, Daniel E. Homan, agreed to the settlement Monday to resolve a lawsuit filed in March by the DOJ and U.S. attorney’s office.
In the suit, investigators said retired Master Chief Petty Officer Thomas E. Ward, a 30-year veteran, placed valuable car parts and household items in an Across Town Movers storage unit before he was deployed overseas in 2006.
But before finishing his final tour, Ward found out that the company had auctioned off all his property, including vintage car parts. They sold the items without giving him notice or getting a court order, which is required under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), according to the DOJ.
The lawsuit said Across Town Movers then continued to collect storage fees from the Navy after it sold Ward’s property.
Now, the company will have to pay Ward $150,000 as compensation. More money from the settlement will go to nine other alleged victims.
“We hope that this consent order will send a clear message to all storage companies that before they auction off anyone’s belongings, they should check the Defense Department’s military database and their own files to see if the customer is protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division.
Across Town Movers has also agreed to a consent order that requires it to change its business practices, which include implementing new policies and procedures that fall in line with the SCRA and prevent future violations.
If you have had a similar situation happen to you, contact the nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program office.