Tow Company Fined For Illegally Selling Sailor’s Car

A tow company in Washington has been fined after it illegally sold a Navy sailor’s car while they were overseas.

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A tow truck hauls a car out a parking lot
Photo: Jon Cherry / Stringer (Getty Images)

A tow truck firm in Washington State has been fined after it towed and sold a serving Navy sailor’s car while they were overseas. Lawmakers in the state of Washington have come down hard on a Kitsap County towing company, which impounded and sold the car illegally.

Yesterday (Dec. 20, 2021), Washington attorney general Bob Ferguson announced a court order that required towing company Bethel Garage to repay a former Navy sailor for illegally selling his car at auction.

According to the attorney general’s office, Bethel Garage lawfully towed the sailor’s car in December 2018. At the time, the sailor was deployed outside of Washington state.

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However, the garage failed to check whether the car was owned by a service member prior to its sale. Under Washington State law, this means the sale of the car at auction the following year was unlawful.

Courts in the state have now ordered the towing company to return money from the sale of the car to the sailor, as well as an additional $2,000 to compensate them for a year spent without a car.

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The order also required Bethel Garage to implement specific policies so it will not harm service members in the future. As such, the garage now says it has made immediate changes to ensure such mistakes aren’t made again.

The case is the latest saga in Ferguson’s Military and Veterans Initiative, which aims to protect service men and women in the sate of Washington.

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The initiate involves engaging and educating service members and veterans about their rights and the resources available to them. It also sees the attorney general’s office enforce legal protections for service people and veterans, and promotes the legal services available to them.

As part of the scheme, Ferguson sent a letter to more than 400 licensed tow truck operators in the state in September, which aimed to emphasize their legal obligations to service members.

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According to the letter:

“Towing companies have an obligation to determine whether a car belongs to a member of the military.

“When our service men and women are deployed away from home and family, they should not need to worry whether their possessions are safe. There are specific laws that protect our service members and I will enforce them.”

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The case follows a court ruling earlier this year, which found that a Tacoma-based towing company had also illegally sold service members’ vehicles at auction.

In May 2020, a Pierce County judge ruled that Burns Towing illegally auctioned off vehicles owned by active-duty military service members.

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In this instance, lawmakers found that Burns Towing unlawfully sold as many as 35 service members’ vehicles while they were on active duty.