HomeLatest NewsFBI Stole Millions from Innocent People: Victims Fight Back in Unprecedented Lawsuit

FBI Stole Millions from Innocent People: Victims Fight Back in Unprecedented Lawsuit

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A raid by the FBI on a private safe deposit box has led to a major legal battle about civil asset forfeiture, and how far federal authorities are willing to go to use this practice. It is often referred to as ‘policing for profit.

The court’s decision could make this a landmark case, which helps define the parameters within which federal law enforcement agencies can use controversial procedures.

FBI agents cataloged Cartier bracelets and Rolex watches, as well as stacks of cash, while they searched through a safe deposit box seized from a Beverly Hills business accused of money laundering. The owners of some of these boxes, however, were not charged with any crimes.

A panel of judges of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, after hearing arguments on both sides of the issue Thursday, will decide if the sweeping raid infringed the Fourth Amendment rights of customers.

“I believe the public will see this and realize that this is a total violation of constitutional rights,” Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Rob Johnson told Fox News. He added that he was “extremely hopeful” about the panel’s upcoming decision.

The FBI seized approximately 1,400 safe deposit boxes from the U.S. on March 22, 2021. According to court documents, Private Vaults is a Beverly Hills-based company that was used regularly by “unsavory” characters to store criminal profits.

Agents removed about $86,000,000 in cash, along with a treasure trove of gold bars, coins, silver, and other valuables. According to court documents, in May that year the FBI “commenced forfeiture proceedings against several boxes which were not specified.”

Civil asset forfeiture is the procedure that was used by the FBI to seize these properties. It allows local, state, and federal governments to seize a citizen’s property when they suspect it was used in a criminal act. Many states, and the federal government, do not require that a person be convicted or even charged with a crime before officers can seize their property.

The practice is defended by those who believe it hinders the activities of organized crime. This is especially true when it comes to drug sales and other illegal activity. Opponents claim that the system can be abused and that it is used in a way that violates the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. These protect against unreasonable searches, seizures, and deprivation without due process.

U.S. Private Vaults admitted to money laundering. The U.S. Attorney’s Office stated that they had not brought any criminal charges against the individuals whose property had been seized. This lawsuit was brought about by the fact that the government has yet to return the property.

Several safe deposit box tenants who were not charged with a crime filed a lawsuit in rem accusing the government of violating their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures and their Fifth Amendment rights to be compensated when their private property is taken.

It is also notable that the warrant for the raid explicitly prohibited law enforcement from seizing private property in the safe deposit box. In depositions, the FBI agents admitted that they intended to forfeit cash and valuables to the government even though they didn’t disclose this plan in the warrant application.

In the affidavit asking for a warrant, U.S. Andrew Brown, Assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, wrote that agents from the federal government intended to simply inventory the contents in the safe deposit boxes seized. Court documents revealed that the FBI drafted plans to forfeit the property in the boxes months before and did not inform the magistrate about these plans. Disclosure: [News outlet] Reason filed an amicus in the case, arguing that redacted documents should become public.

As there has yet to be a decision, it is unclear what the full ramifications will be. It is a reminder that the government has the right to steal property from people without any due process. Many of these people are unable to retrieve their property due to the lengthy and difficult legal process they have to go through to fight back. Most of the time, individuals are forced to hire expensive lawyers to guide them through the process. This is a situation that the government seems to exploit when it wants to increase its revenue.

Hope the court rules in favor of freedom. A decision of this kind could limit the ability of the state to violate even the most fundamental Constitutional rights.

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