JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The owner of a Jacksonville towing company accused of towing and auctioning off cars belonging to military service members says what happened was not intentional.
The company, ASAP Towing and Storage, has settled with the government and is paying back the sailors and soldiers whose cars, trucks and SUVs were taken.
Over the past seven years, the Department of Justice determined that ASAP Towing towed and sold 33 service members' cars, some of whom were on deployment.
News4Jax spoke with Vince Serrano, the company’s owner, about the $99,500 settlement. He said many of the cars were damaged and undriveable.
AT 11: “It was not intentional nor was it to profit off of these military personnel.”— Corley Peel (@WJXT_CorleyPeel) September 12, 2020
I spoke with the owner of ASAP towing about the $99,500 settlement the company has to pay to military members after towing and selling service members cars. @wjxt4 https://t.co/Wo6bYkSAGf pic.twitter.com/MFFaBq0zrO
"It was not intentional nor was it to profit off of these military personal,” Serrano said. “I sold some of these cars after we held them for three years. I thought I could go under the abandon(ment) law and sell them directly through the abandon(ment) law. I was wrong. You’re not allowed to do that. That was a misunderstanding.”
Lt. Zane Berry was one of the deployed sailors who spearheaded the investigation after he came home from a six-and-a-half month deployment to find his vehicle had been sold and auctioned off.
“On April eighth of 2018 my car was towed from my apartment complex for having a flat tire,” he said.
Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, companies aren’t allowed to tow or sell military members cars without court orders.
There are roughly 75 cars that are identified as possible military members' cars that are in ASAP Towing yard. Serrano says he can’t move them unless he can get a court order.
When asked what the company is doing to prevent this from happening again, Serrano said: “Now we communicate with apartment complexes when vehicles are removed from there to see if they were on the lease and designated that they were military. We run it through a program that says if it is military or not.”
Serrano said the company has the utmost respect for military members.