Skip to comments.The FBI Stole Millions From Individuals Who Were Not Charged With a Crime - the Victims Are Suing
Posted on 12/07/2023 9:29:16 PM PST by SeekAndFind
An FBI raid on private safe deposit boxes has triggered a significant legal battle over civil asset forfeiture and the lengths to which federal authorities can use the practice, which has often been referred to as “Policing for Profit.”
The outcome of the court proceedings could turn this into a landmark case that helps to further define the parameters in which federal law enforcement can use the controversial procedure.
FBI agents cataloged Cartier bracelets, Rolex watches and stacks of cash as they combed through safe deposit boxes seized from a Beverly Hills business accused of money laundering. But the owners of many of those boxes were not accused of any crimes.
After hearing arguments from both sides Thursday, a panel of judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will decide whether the sweeping raid violated customers' Fourth Amendment rights.
"I think the public sees this and recognizes that this is just a total abuse of people's constitutional rights," Institute for Justice senior attorney Rob Johnson told Fox News, adding that he felt "extremely optimistic" about the panel's forthcoming decision.
On March 22, 2021, the FBI seized around 1,400 safe deposit boxes from U.S. Private Vaults, a Beverly Hills–based company that, according to court documents, was regularly used by "unsavory characters to store criminal proceeds."
Agents took about $86 million in cash from the boxes, as well as a trove of jewelry, gold bars and coins, silver and other valuables. In May of that year, the FBI "commenced administrative forfeiture proceedings" against an unspecified number of the boxes, according to court documents.
The procedure the FBI used to seize this property is known as civil asset forfeiture, which empowers local, state, and federal governments to take a citizen’s property if they suspect that it has been used to commit a crime. In many states and at the federal level, one does not have to be convicted – or even charged – with a crime for officers to seize the property.
Proponents of the practice argue that it helps the authorities hamper the operations of organized crime, especially when it comes to the sale of drugs and other illegal activities. However, opponents argue that the system is often abused and used in ways that violate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, which guard against unreasonable searches and seizures and the deprivation of property without due process.
U.S. Private Vaults pleaded guilty to money laundering. However, the U.S. Attorney’s Office indicated that it had not filed any other criminal charges against those whose property was seized. The government still has not returned the property to these individuals, which prompted the lawsuit.
Several of the safe deposit box renters who haven't been charged filed a class action lawsuit accusing the government of violating their Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable search and seizure and their Fifth Amendment protection from having private property taken without compensation.
What is also noteworthy about this case is that the warrant from the raid specifically barred law enforcement from seizing the private property contained in the safe deposit boxes. The FBI agents involved admitted in depositions that they had planned to forfeit cash and other valuables to the government despite the fact that they did not divulge these plans in the warrant application.
In the affidavit requesting a warrant to go after U.S. Private Vaults—whose owners were charged with several federal crimes after the raid—Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Brown wrote that federal agents intended to merely inventory the contents of the seized safe deposit boxes. But court documents later showed that the FBI had drawn up plans months earlier to forfeit property from the boxes and failed to inform the magistrate judge about those plans. (Disclosure: [News outlet] Reason submitted an amicus brief in the case arguing that the redacted documents should be made public.)
The extent of the ramifications of this case remains to be seen as there has not yet been a ruling. But it serves as one of several reminders about the reality that the government can legally steal people’s property without due process. In many of these cases, those affected are unable to retrieve their property because of the long and arduous legal ordeal through which they must traverse to fight back. In most cases, these individuals must hire an expensive lawyer to help them navigate the process, a reality the government appears to take advantage of when it wishes to fill its coffers.
Hopefully, the court will rule in favor of liberty. Such a decision could further limit the state’s ability to violate the most basic of Constitutional rights.
Plus they stole a huge find of civil war gold several years ago. Not to mention the precious metals the Branch Davidians owned, before murdering most of them.
What’s Biden’s cut?
You can’t put Ray Epps and the Old Navy Khaki Neo-Nazi glowies in a public budget. How else do they get funded?
Now they ARE bank robbers.
I completely fail to understand how this civil asset forfeiture process is allowable. It makes no sense whatsoever.
The Bite Me Kleptocracy..
Plus they stole bitcoins from the drug dealer behind Silk Road. I don’t mean the mass confiscation on the conviction. A dirty agent(s) stole a bunch while conducting the investigation.
It used to be 10%, but with inflation, his cut is now 30%
Because the fox is guarding the henhouse.
It continues because the courts have allowed the feds to use an absurd legal trick in which they in essence charge the property with a crime, instead of the owner of that property. And since inanimate objects don’t have Constitutional rights they think they can keep their plunder indefinitely without any due process. This corrupt practice has been going on since at least the 80s, and it’s long past time for it to stop. One of the worst examples I remember was the case of a couple who owned a small jet charter business. Without their knowledge, a paying passenger of theirs carried marijuana on a flight in his briefcase. During an FBI/DEA investigation, the feds found a few pot seeds on the floor of their Learjet and seized the jet, putting them out of business and depriving them of their extremely expensive property. In their ensuing effort to get their property back, the feds kept stonewalling them with the argument that since they were themselves not charged with anything, they had no right to appeal the government’s actions. The feds flat out said that it was the property involved in an alleged crime, and not its owners, so they had no recourse.
Millions of Americans suspect the FBI of corruption and conspiracy against patriotic Americans, so I think we should be able to bash down the doors of FBI headquarters without warning and announce that all employees present must empty their pockets and turn over that and any other personal property they have on site as the property may have been involved in a crime.
Not only should the court rule in the plaintiff’s favor, it should award them damages in excess of whatever they had to pay their lawyers to get their stolen property back from the corrupt FIB.
Yes, this is theft by a government agency. One thing the article does not delve into is how /who’s money were they laundering? The owners plead guilty to this and it does not go any further than stating that? Were any of the box holders complicit to the crime? It also stated that the FBI had PLANNED to seize the contents of the remaining boxes but failed to notify the magistrate? two and a half years later and they (the FBI) still have all the property. Tyrannical policing.
None of the people that are suing.
They were just people who happened to have rented boxes with the company.
Sort of like if you rented a storage unit, the government decided that the storage company might be doing something criminal and despite you being involved in no way, they took your kids Christmas presents you were keeping there. Then they "lost" them and then said after you had retained a lawyer and sued them, said that they might give you the keyboard back if you sign a paper saying that they can keep the PS5.
Warrant from the raid specifically barred law enforcement from seizing the private property contained in the safe deposit boxes.
Well we have seen how FIB handles the law in the last few years no surprise.
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