May 2, 2012
The Justice Department said Tuesday that it has settled its lawsuit against a Norfolk company accused of improperly towing and selling military service members' cars while they were deployed.
Aristocrat Towing agreed to pay $75,000 in damages and repair the credit of 26 service members whose cars were towed and sold without obtaining court orders as required by federal law. The case began with a referral from the Navy to the Justice Department after Lt. Yahya Jaboori returned from Iraq to find his car had been towed and sold.
The lawsuit, filed in 2008 in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, accused Aristocrat of violating the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
"This settlement sends a strong message to businesses nationwide that the Justice Department will enforce the SCRA to protect against the taking of service members' property without first seeking court orders as required by law," said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.
In a telephone interview, Aristocrat vice president Earnest A. Cooper Jr. denied wrongdoing. The consent order filed in federal court said the parties wanted to "avoid costly and protracted litigation" and agreed the matter should be resolved without a trial.
Cooper called the case against his company "an absolute railroad job" and said the government wanted to make an example of him.
"I'm a straight shooter, and I've never seen the government just rip somebody apart for no reason," he said.