A North Carolina towing company is paying close to a $70,000 settlement after being accused of repossessing and selling vehicles that belonged to deployed U.S. Marines.
The Justice Department announced Tuesday that Billy Joe Goines, owner and operator of Goines Towing & Recovery, has reached a settlement with the government over alleged violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) from his towing and selling vehicles without properly disclosing to the courts that they were owned by service members.
“Service members sacrifice a lot — and, in many cases, everything,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a press release.
“Debt collectors and towing companies shouldn’t be allowed to take and sell their property behind their backs. The Justice Department will vigorously enforce service members’ rights under the SCRA. Try to illegally take property from a Marine and find out.”
The SCRA provides a “wide variety of financial and housing protections to members of the military,” the release notes. It requires companies to file accurate affidavits disclosing whether a vehicle belongs to a member of the military.
But the Justice Department claims Goines, who operated a shop near Camp Lejeune, did not follow such protections for service members, instead auctioning, selling or disposing of vehicles owned by at least eight members of the military, including at least one service member who was deployed to Japan when the towing company owner sold the Marine’s vehicle and kept the proceeds.
“Under federal law, towing companies are required to file accurate military affidavits after making a good-faith effort to determine whether vehicle owners are in military service,” Clarke said in the release. “By failing to follow federal law, Goines deprived service members of the opportunity to reclaim their vehicles. This consent order demonstrates the Justice Department’s ongoing commitment to protecting the rights of service members and their families.”
The case against Goines was the first ever brought against a U.S. towing company under the SCRA, the release notes. Goines agreed to settle the case in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, including payments totaling $66,805 to the impacted service members.
Goines also agreed to forgive storage fees assessed to some service members and attend SCRA training courses to help guide policies and procedures to ensure his company stays in complaints with the law.
Goines Towing and Recovery declined a Fox News Digital request for comment.