The Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a wrongful-sale lawsuit against San Diego moving-and-storage operator Daniel E. Homan for allegedly selling the stored belongings of military members while they were deployed. The suit names Homan and Horoy Inc. as defendants. Homan is president and owner of Horoy, which does business as Across Town Movers, according to a press release.
The DOJ complaint alleges Across Town Movers violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) by selling the personal property of 11 service members without obtaining a required court order. The SCRA stipulates that a storage lien may not be enforced against service members during their period of military service, or 90 days after, without a court order, according to the release.
In one instance, the company is also accused of continuing to receive government payment to store the property of Thomas E. Ward, a master chief petty officer of the Navy, after it had already sold “valuable” vintage car parts and household items the 30-year veteran had placed into storage, DOJ officials said. Ward placed his property into storage in 2006 and learned it had been auctioned shortly before returning home, according to the release.
“Federal law does not allow storage companies to sell the contents of a service member’s storage lot without a court order,” said Vanita Gupta, acting assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ. “Storage companies should check the Defense Department’s military database and other resources before conducting any auction to see if the customer is protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the rights of the men and women who serve in our armed forces, and we will continue to devote time and resources to make sure that they are given the legal protections they deserve.”
The DOJ is seeking damages for the value of the auctioned goods as well as injunctive relief. The SCRA provides for civil monetary penalties of up to $55,000 for a first offense and $110,000 for each subsequent offense, department officials said.
“Service members, especially when deployed overseas, should be able to focus on protecting our country and shouldn’t have to worry about losing their personal property,” added Laura E. Duffy, a U.S. attorney in the southern district of California where the suit was filed. “Congress enacted the SCRA for this purpose, and we will pursue all appropriate remedies to ensure that our service members’ rights are protected. Whether large or small, businesses will be held accountable for violating those rights.”
The case was referred to the DOJ by the Navy, according to the release. It is being handled by assistant U.S. attorneys Dylan M. Aste and Leslie M. Gardner.
Across Town Movers offers more than 1 million cubic feet of warehouse storage space, according to the company website.