Fox & Friends: Santander USA Case

Soldier’s Car was Repossessed Despite Federal Law

March 20, 2015

Anchor: Staff Sergeant Charles Beard was serving our nation in Iraq. He was in Tikrit when his wife let him know that their car was being repossessed. And despite a federal law meant to protect our troops while serving, there was nothing they could do to fight it. They had to let it go.

Joining us right now is retired Staff Sergeant Charles Beard and his attorney Sergei Lemberg.

Welcome guys, thanks for joining us.

Sergeant, first tell me what happened. You were serving in Tikrit. You got a really important job there. Your wife gets in touch with you to say your car’s being repossessed. Bring us back.

Beard: Well, at the time I was working in the battle tox, basically in common language as a dispatcher for my unit. When I got the call, I was told to call home because she was pretty hysterical.

They came to the house apparently and said, look, you either give me the car or we’re going to count it as grand theft auto and we’re going to send you to jail. They actually threatened her on that. She got worried and she gave the car to them. She didn’t know what to do.

She contacted me. I notified my JAG out there, and they sent a letter to them, let them know they were in violation of the SCRA Act.

And also my wife, at the time, she told them that, he’s overseas, he’s deployed serving his country. They said they didn’t care, that I didn’t fall underneath that Act.

Anchor: So there’s really nothing you can do. The name of the company is Santander, right?

When did you get involved, Sergei?

Lemberg: Around maybe six months later. Charles contacted me and relayed the facts. We filed a class action complaint in the federal district court in Sacramento. It turned out later that there was an arbitration clause in the agreement so the class action was sent to arbitration.

Anchor: You’ve got to get your car back plus you’re serving. You had to take a day off from what you’re doing in the middle of a war zone to try and get this handled. You add that stress to it. What eventually ended up happening, Sergeant, with the car?

Beard: They repossessed the vehicle. They tried to charge me for the fees to sell the vehicle. And what was leftover from financing. On my credit report was a repossession.

Anchor: You can’t get rid of that. That’s still on your credit report, and it’s giving you problems still that your car’s been repossessed.

You get reimbursed for the money, correct? Over $6,000?

Beard: Yes. They actually did take it off. They did take it off my credit report after.

Anchor: Sergei, what happens with this company? How do we stop this from happening to other guys being deployed?

Lemberg: Geez, we bailed them out, but who’s going to bail them out morally? They’re not supposed to do it. It’s a 100-year-old law that’s been on the books for a long time that says you cannot repossess a car belonging to an active duty servicemember. It’s a criminal offense. It’s a civil offense. Yet they don’t care. They just yank the car and leave these guys’ families essentially without a car. Without a means to get around.

Anchor: The Department of Justice did fine Santander $9.35 million last month for widespread illegal seizures. But when they ran into you, they ran into a buzzsaw. Staff Sergeant Charles Beard, thanks so much. Sergei Lemberg thanks for sharing the story. Sergeant, sorry you had to go through this.

Lemberg: Thank you.
Beard: Thank you.

Original story: At Fox & Friends

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