Federal authorities monetize safebox seizures as owners counterattack


The couple, Jeni Pearsons and Michael Store, are not wealthy.

Pearson works in a non-profit theater Los Angeles, And Store are transportation coordinators in the film industry.The couple has saved for retirement For years, I bought silver here and there when they could afford it. To keep their property safe, they rented a safe deposit box at US Private Vaults.

They believed that everything was better until news of the Beverly Hills business raid was reported earlier this year.

The government claimed that the company colluded with customers to sell drugs, money launder, and conceal unobtainable goods.

LA County abuses asset confiscation and seizes huge amounts of money without due process

Armed with a warrant, FBI When Drug Enforcement Bureau Over the course of five days, the agent stripped hundreds of safe deposit boxes from the wall and claimed their contents.

Prosecutors claimed they were within their rights and that the boxes contained weapons and drugs. They also carried a pile of jewelry, precious metals, and money to a private warehouse. Their final shipment was worth about $ 86 million.

The problem is that federal authorities have received items from people who have not been accused of crime, such as Pearsons and stores.

They were able to maintain it due to the country’s vague civil confiscation law standards, which allowed the government to seize property and property without actual evidence of criminal misconduct.

During the raid, authorities also confiscated Joseph Lewis’ life-savings.

An unemployed chef, who had a side job selling bons made from liquor bottles, kept $ 57,000 in his safe deposit box.

Prosecutors accused him of being an unlicensed marijuana dealer, claiming he couldn’t make enough money to save that much money.

He went to court to get his money back and won. The government withdrew the proceedings against him after he was able to provide a document showing that his funding source was legal.

“It was a complete breach of my privacy,” Lewis told the Los Angeles Times. “They tried to undermine the credibility of my personality.”

Lewis is one of 800 people whose money and property were robbed in the March 22 raid. Six months later, the Federal Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles was unable to prove criminal misconduct by the majority of box owners who were actively trying to store their belongings.

Like Lewis, 65 others filed court documents claiming that the government’s acquisition was unconstitutional.

Confiscation of civil property shouts for reform

According to a Los Angeles Times survey, the government’s reasons for robbing many other people of money and property were as flimsy as Lewis was.

Agents claim that drug detection dogs warned of drug odors with seized cash, but multiple analyzes of drug dog warnings consistently showed high error rates, some 50%. Is over.

“In effect, some of these K-9 units are worse than a coin toss,” Washington Post columnist Radley Barco said in a post about the accuracy of dog searches. “Dog can certainly sniff out illegal drugs, but we brought them another top-priority train: the desire to please. Even drug dogs with conscientious handlers are handlers. Reads unintended body words and warns accordingly. “

Federal officials also pointed out the use of rubber bands to collect cash piles and other usual ways of storing currency as obvious signs of money laundering and drug trafficking from US private vault box owners. I am.

The government also stated in court documents that it had deposited all the seized money in banks. Experts say it’s impossible to test which drug may have come into contact with which bill.

Also, in February, Private Vaults in the United States was charged with colluding with an unnamed customer to sell drugs and money launder, but no one has been charged.

Criminal proceedings against them have not progressed, and the Los Angeles Federal Attorney’s Office has not stated the reason, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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Unfortunately, for many box owners, in the case of civil confiscation, a person is often guilty until proved innocent. No criminal conviction is required. The government only needs to show that the money or property received is likely to be related to illegal activity.

Civil confiscation was initially one way to cripple by robbing the assets of large criminal enterprises. However, this practice has been widely abused, forcing victims to abandon their homes and property, and then spending a small amount of property to regain them.

“Today, with the help of badly flawed federal and state law, many police stations use confiscation to benefit their profits, causing seizures by profit rather than fighting crime.” The American Free Human Rights Association said. “For those whose property has been seized due to the confiscation of civil property, legally regaining such property is notoriously difficult and costly, and the cost can exceed the value of the property.”

For Pearson’s and Store, the government’s seizure of silver was unacceptable and they decided to fight back.

They, along with the other six, The Legal Training and Research Institute In the case of a class action that challenges a government attack as an illegal search.

“Government theory is that having cash makes you a presumptive criminal, and I think all Americans should be worried about it,” said IJ Senior Attorney Rob Johnson. Told.

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tag: news, Forfeiture of civil assets, Los Angeles, California, Warrant, jobs, FBI, DEA, Law, Law enforcement agency

Original author: Barnini Chakra Volti

Original location: Federal authorities monetize safebox seizures as owners counterattack