BOSTON — A Massachusetts moving and storage company reached an agreement Thursday with federal prosecutors to pay a U.S. soldier $60,000 for auctioning off the contents of his storage unit while he was deployed overseas without first obtaining a court order.
According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, PRTaylor Enterprises, a Billerica-based company doing business as Father & Son Moving & Storage, violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) when it sold the contents of the unit. The possessions were owned by Technical Sgt. Charles Cornacchio, who was deployed to Qatar in February 2019, according to Military.com.
In July 2019, Father & Son auctioned Cornacchio’s stored belongings, according to a federal lawsuit.
According to the complaint, Cornacchio’s possessions that were sold included military gear and mementos that had belonged to a cousin who was killed while deployed in Afghanistan, his grandfather’s military service medals and all of his household furnishings and personal photographs.
Under the SCRA, financial and housing protections are provided to members of the military while they are on active duty. One provision requires that anyone holding a lien on the property of a military service member must obtain a court order before auctioning, selling or disposing that person’s property.
Prosecutors said Father & Son knew Cornacchio was in the military and deployed abroad, adding that he was even in uniform at the time company movers came to remove his belongings, Military.com reported.
Father & Son, in addition to paying the $60,000 to Cornacchio, will pay the U.S. government a $5,000 civil penalty, according to the news release.
According to a lawsuit, Father & Son had sent mail indicating the technical sergeant owed money to his previous address at Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Massachusetts, WFXT reported. However, the soldier did not receive it in Qatar until nearly a month after his possessions had been sold, the television station reported.
“It is wrong to auction off the possessions of a service member who is serving our country overseas,” acting U.S. Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell said in a statement. “The law protects servicemembers from this kind of mistreatment -- they have more important things to worry about when they are overseas risking their lives to protect our nation.
“We will enforce the rights of our military members aggressively and hold accountable people who violate the SCRA.”
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