The Week's Features
United Coalition for Motor Club Safety changes name
Unit is dedicated to fallen police officer
Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union in violation of SCRA
New heavy-duty wrench features three fixed sockets
Carrier, light-duty clear crash and debris on Pike
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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingNovember 14 - November 20, 2018
The U.S. Department of Justice and the New York State-based Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union announced a $95,000 settlement after an investigation into claims of SCRA violations. Pictured: Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore (left) and HVFCU President/CEO Mary D. Madden.

$95K Settlement in [b]Wrongful Military Repos

The U.S. Department of Justice and the New York State-based Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union announced on Nov. 2 a $95,000 settlement after an investigation into claims that the company violated federal law by repossessing servicemembers' vehicles while they were on active duty.

Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union will pay $65,000 to compensate seven members of the military whose vehicles the DOJ determined were repossessed in violation of the Servicemembers Credit Relief Act.

The credit union will also pay a $30,000 civil penalty.

"Financial institutions must recognize and honor their responsibilities to our men and women in uniform," Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore said.

Six of the seven servicemembers will receive $10,000 and compensation, with interest, for any lost equity in their vehicles. The seventh, whose vehicle was returned within 24 hours of being seized, will receive $5,000.

The credit union also agreed to take steps to repair each servicemember's credit, according to DOJ.

The company "at least twice rejected servicemembers' requests for SCRA protection, according to DOJ. One servicemember deployed to South Korea, and his girlfriend, contacted HVCFU "multiple times" before his vehicle was repossessed, the DOJ said.

Overall, the DOJ accused the company of repossessing at least nine servicemembers' vehicles between July 3, 2008, and Feb. 19, 2014.

In a press release, HVFCU President/CEO Mary D. Madden said the "men and women of our military deserve our unwavering support," and that the company will increase staff training on SCRA and add a link for servicemembers to its website.


State Agent Helped [b]Repossess Cars

A now-former Alabama law enforcement agent has admitted to using the agency's database to help a local company repossess cars.

News outlets reported 40-year-old Steven Wrea Ziaja pleaded guilty Oct.22 to computer tampering and using his office for personal gain. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail per a deal in which he agreed to cooperate in ongoing investigations. He also surrendered his law enforcement certification and agreed "never to seek such certification again in the future."

Attorney General Steve Marshall says in a release that the former narcotics officer began selling cars for a private company in 2014 and invested in its parent organization. He then used the state agency's database to search for information on purchasers who failed to make car payments. He was arrested last year.


Financial Institutions [b]Select CARS System

Crescent Bank and Trust and Flagship Credit Acceptance have both selected Consolidated Asset Recovery Systems' IBEAM (Internet Based Electronic Asset Management) Market Place Manager web portal to support their repossession and remarketing needs.

"We have been partners with Consolidated for several years and have seen the company grow," said Dan Boozer, Chief Collections Officer, Crescent Bank and Trust. "We value our partnership and recognize their continued thought leadership in the market. We are excited as they roll out new solutions to drive change in the industry with products like Market Place Manager."

"IBEAM allows us to manage all of our forwarding partners and remarketing consigners under a single platform," commented Flagship Loan Servicing Senior Vice President Steve Biehl. "By allowing us to consolidate data from field-based tasks and analytics through a central technology, we can enhance our performance."


Subprime Loans Driving [b]Delinquency, Repos

Despite an economy marked by high growth and low unemployment, motor vehicle repossession rates have risen in many parts of the country, including California.

According to California Department of Business Oversight data, there were 44,897 auto repossessions in the state in 2017. In 2016, that number was 39,948, with 39,690 repos in 2015 and 41,492 in 2014. In 2013 there were just 13,167 such seizures.

Outside of DBO's annual reports information on statistical trends is hard to find.

"Good data is not something readily available for vehicle repossessions, though there are propriety sources," said John W. Van Alst, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. "This lack of publicly available data makes the issues around repos worse, because policy makers have a hard time creating good policy without good data."

"Business Insider" described the fallout from the subprime auto loans as "carmageddon" and "a slow-motion wreck," with several such lenders recently filing for bankruptcy as the sector has experienced losses. The financial consequences could lead to a tightening of lending practices and fewer new car sales.

"The auto repossession industry is like the Wild West and no one is keeping track of any of this. Both consumers and repo agents have been killed," said Van Alst. "Children have been towed away in repossessions. Sometimes the wrong car is repossessed. The current system is dangerous for consumers, repo agents, and the general public. ... "


Repo Agent Accused [b]of Chasing Woman

Maryland State Police have charged a Delaware man with assault and other charges after they said he chased a woman while she was driving an SUV he was trying to repossess.

Astii D.C. Dunnum, 27, of New Castle, was charged with assault, destruction of property and disorderly conduct in connection with an incident Oct. 22, state police said.

State police said Dunnum went to a house in Bel Air. A woman told police she was afraid of getting hit, so she got into an SUV registered to her husband and drove away in fear for her safety.

State police said Dunnum then chased the SUV onto the road. The woman told police that Dunnum tried to push her off the road multiple times. The victim told police that Dunnum struck the SUV with his vehicle at one point.

State police said they received multiple calls from other drivers reporting dangerous driving behavior.

The victim pulled into a convenience store parking lot where she said Dunnum began to deploy the tow apparatus to lift the front of the SUV off the ground while she was still inside. State police said when a trooper arrived, Dunnum had lifted the front tires of the SUV about 6' into the air.

The woman was taken to a hospital for an evaluation, and the trooper arrested Dunnum at the scene.

Dunnum was released by a court commissioner on a $5,000 bond.

State police said Dunnum had a repossession order for the SUV the victim was driving.


Woman Attacked Repo [b]Agent, Sheriff Said

A repo agent trying to repossess a vehicle recently in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was confronted by an angry woman, who proceeded to attack him with a shovel, according to a release from the Davidson County Sheriff's Office.

Michelle Beck, 43, is also accused of hitting deputies who responded to the disturbance call, the release said.

All this happened outside Beck's home in Winston-Salem, the release said.

"While speaking with Beck, deputies attempted to detain her and she fled," said a sheriff's office statement. "While attempting to arrest Beck, she assaulted deputies."

Beck was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, assault on government official and resisting arrest, said the release.

The agent allegedly hit with the shovel was identified in the release as Jacob Wahl of Premier Recovery. It was not clear if Wahl was seriously hurt.

Beck has a December 5 court date, said the release.

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