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Moving company is accused of selling Air Force sergeant’s items while he was deployed overseas

By MICHAEL BONNER | New York Daily News (Tribune News Service) | Published: August 18, 2020

A Massachusetts storage company auctioned off a military sergeant’s “irreplaceable” belongings while he was deployed overseas to fight on behalf of the United States, federal prosecutors said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Charles Cornacchio, who serves in the U.S. Air Force, rented two storage units in the town of Billerica just before he was sent on a six-month mission to Qatar in 2018, according to the complaint.

When he returned, Cornacchio learned that Father & Son Moving & Storage had sold the entire contents of both units, which included his grandfather’s military service medals, military gear from a cousin who was killed in military action, a dresser that was handmade by his great-grandfather and personal photographs, authorities said.

Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, storage companies must obtain a court order before auctioning off items belonging to members of the military. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts, which filed the lawsuit, claims Father & Son never sought a court order before selling Cornacchio’s entire possessions.

“This servicemember was called overseas to serve our country and returned home to find his personal possessions, family heirlooms and military awards auctioned off to the highest bidder. That is unacceptable,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a statement.

The technical sergeant, who’s served in the Air Force since 2007, explicitly told the company that he was a service member, according to the complaint. The lawsuit also alleges that Father & Son employees picked up and packed Cornacchio’s belongings at an Air Force base and saw him wearing his military uniform.

His possessions were “irreplaceable” and had “significant sentimental value,” the complaint states.

“The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act outlawed the kind of conduct alleged here, and for good reason,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

“No individual or organization should be able to get away with the kind of devastation this young man suffered when he returned home from an overseas deployment and learned that many of his most valued family mementos were gone,” Dreiband said in a statement.

The company did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.

The federal lawsuit seeks damages for Cornacchio, including the value of his auctioned items, a civil penalty and an order preventing the company from selling service members’ belongings in the future.

Father & Son has faced other legal battles in recent years as numerous customers accused the company of holding their belongings hostage while demanding more money, according to local news station WBZ-TV, which has conducted multiple investigations into the business.

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