CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - An Army National Guard soldier had her car towed and sold by a Charlotte towing company while she was deployed.
A WBTV investigation into the towing company responsible found that the owner was submitting false information to local courts during the process of selling towed cars.
Charlotte resident Jabria Ross has been in the Alabama National Guard since her freshman year of college and reached out to WBTV after her vehicle was towed.
“I was on assignment to the border down in Texas and while I was on mission, I found out my car was towed,” Ross said.
Ross shared her deployment orders with WBTV, showing she was at the border on assignment for the National Guard from November 2018 through August 2019. The Alabama National Guard Public Affairs Office told WBTV that she was assigned to the border during that time.
Ross left her vehicle at her mother’s condo complex during her deployment. Emails provided by Ross to WBTV show that her mother notified the HOA the vehicle would be there.
But less than two months after Ross was deployed, her vehicle was towed.
“They towed it because my tag was expired while I was on orders,” Ross said.
Emails from Ross’s mother to the HOA show that she wasn’t told the correct name of the towing company, so Ross had to call the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) to get information about who actually towed her car.
“They were able to tell me who had my car, and it was SL Recovery,” Ross said.
Ross said that she called SL Recovery to find out how to get her car back, but she said they would only take payment in person with cash or by debit card.
However, before Ross got back from her deployment to the border, SL Recovery had filed a lien on her vehicle and sold it to cover towing and storage fees.
“I think what hurts the most, I was so close to paying that car off,” Ross told WBTV trying to hold back tears.
“I go on orders to serve my country and to put myself in a better situation. I feel like I went backwards all because they towed my car,” Ross said.
State records show that SL Recovery is owned by Chlonn Williams.
Court records indicate that SL Recovery has $111,866.76 in liens filed against it for not paying federal taxes.
WBTV also looked up hundreds of pages of liens filed in court by SL Recovery for other vehicles they had towed and wanted to sell. The review found that SL Recovery provided false information in court records and to NCDMV about how it sold vehicles.
North Carolina state law requires a thorough process before a towing company that tows and stores a car, can place a lien on the vehicle and then sell that vehicle at auction to satisfy the lien.
The North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles must be notified by the lienor of the intent to sell the car. The lienor also must advertise its sale in a local paper or in front of the courthouse. Court records show SL Recovery took those steps.
But in the case of Ross’s car and numerous other vehicles, Williams and SL Recovery advertised that they were selling them at public auction at the SL Recovery business address.
A WBTV reporter went to one of the publicly advertised auctions by SL Recovery on Sept. 2, but an employee at the towing company said “we don’t do those here.”
Instead, court records show, Ross’s car was sold to a used car company called Carmatix. The owner told WBTV that they buy cars through SL Recovery in private sales, an apparent contradiction to the method of sale marked by SL Recovery in court documents.
WBTV called Chlonn Williams and asked for an on-camera interview but he declined. He told WBTV that he was selling the vehicles at public auction and isn’t sure why his employee told WBTV they weren’t.
Williams also told WBTV that it was the DMV’s responsibility to try and contact Ross after he notified them of the intent to sell her vehicle. Court records show that Ross never received notification from the DMV, although the title lists her old address in Alabama.
An attorney for Williams named Cedric Rainey told WBTV that SL Recovery did not tow the car illegally.
Rainey also said SL has a contract with the HOA and notifies each property group of the cars it tows. He said he’s not sure why the HOA gave Ross’s mother the wrong towing company.
Rainey also provided WBTV with a copy of a Servicemembers Civil Relief Act search for Ross. Federal law mandates that in any civil court proceeding in which the defendant servicemember does not make an appearance, the plaintiff must provide proof of whether the defendant is on active military duty. If they are on active duty, the court cannot enter a default judgment against them.
Although Rainey provided a SCRA search for Ross to WBTV, there does not appear to be a SCRA affidavit in the court file for Ross’s vehicle lien.
Rainey maintained that SL Recovery followed the law and proper protocols when selling the car.
“I just think it is insane,” Ross told WBTV. “The amount of problems I’m dealing with it behind it is just crazy.”