A federal lawsuit offers a cautionary tale about auctioning off stored property belonging to members of the U.S. military.
On March 16, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit seeking to recover damages from a company that allegedly sold the stored property of 11 deployed servicemembers without obtaining the required court orders.
Defendants in the lawsuit are Daniel E. Homan and his San Marcos, CA-based company, Horoy Inc. Horoy does business as Across Town Movers, which calls itself one of the largest moving companies in the San Diego area.
The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the rights of the men and women who serve in our armed forces.
— Vanita Gupta, acting assistant U.S. attorney general
The federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects the rights of U.S. servicemembers who are on active duty. For instance, the law says a storage lien can’t be enforced against a servicemember during that person’s military service or for 90 days after the end of that service.
In its lawsuit, the Department of Justice says the defendants “had a practice of not checking customers’ military status before auctioning off their goods.”
The Department of Justice alleges that since 2011, Across Town Movers has sold the personal property of 11 servicemembers without obtaining the proper court orders. After auctioning off one servicemember’s property, including household items and vintage car parts, Across Town Movers continued to collect storage rent from the federal government, the Justice Department alleges.
Protecting their rights
“Servicemembers, especially when deployed overseas, should be able to focus on protecting our country and shouldn’t have to worry about losing their personal property,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said in a news release.
Vanita Gupta, acting assistant U.S. attorney general, recommended that storage companies check the U.S. Defense Department’s military database before auction off the belongings of a tenant who is or might be serving in the military.
“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the rights of the men and women who serve in our armed forces,” Gupta said, “and we will continue to devote time and resources to make sure that they are given the legal protections they deserve.”
In addition to pursuing money for the auctioned goods, federal prosecutors could seek financial penalties against Across Town Movers of $55,000 for the first offense and $110,000 for each additional offense.