WASHINGTON — A Prince George’s County jury has ordered a small town to pay a towing business owner $260,000 in damages, after it denied him business because of his Middle Eastern background.
Mamoun Ashkar is the owner of Greg’s Towing in Riverdale Park and an American. He filed the lawsuit against the town accusing officials of defamation and severing ties after he bought the business.
“The jury found them guilty for discrimination,” Ashkar said.
In his lawsuit, Ashkar claimed that town leaders, including top police officials, stopped doing business with the towing company after Ashkar bought it in 2014.
The town worked with Greg’s Towing for decades prior, and backed away from the businesses because of his ethnicity, according to Ashkar.
“We were denied the opportunity to work together with the town and Riverdale law enforcement,” he said.
Ashkar was born in Prince George’s County to parents who came to the U.S. from Palestinian territories, the Washington Post reports.
The lawsuit claimed that officials called him derogatory names and falsely asserted that Ashkar had a criminal record and could not pass background checks.
“I was called ‘foreigner’ and ‘camel jockey,’” he said. “They were defaming my name and trying to ruin my reputation.”
Riverdale Park Town Manager John N. Lestitian said the town plans to file a motion asking a judge to reconsider the jury’s decision.
“They can do what they want to do,” Ashkar said. “It’s been quite a few years and I did feel sometimes like giving up. At the same time it did just make me stronger to keep going forward.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.