Robbed by Law Enforcement

I am a fan of bad television.  I admit it.  I even DVR it.  I watch an awful show on the National Geographic Channel every week about Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and how they intercept drugs and birds and food and other contraband from people arriving from abroad into the airports of New York, Atlanta and Miami. 

I was watching an episode this week where an elderly Korean man arrived at JFK airport in New York with a few hundred dollars in his pocket.

For no apparent reason, he was pulled into secondary for a more comprehensive search.  When the CBP officer went through the man’s wallet, he found four cashier’s checks, dated years earlier, that totaled $136,000.  The man said that it was his life savings, he had been carrying it around for years, and that he had forgotten that the checks were on him. 

Tough luck, CBP said.  The money belongs to the government now.  That’s civil asset forfeiture.

The man was never charged with a crime.  But he still loses his life savings.  That’s the way we do things in the United States.

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Rochester woman fights to get back $8K seized in raid; she was not charged, no drugs found

In October 2020, Rochester police raided the West Main Street apartment of Cristal Starling and her then-boyfriend, who was suspected of dealing drugs.

No drugs were found, but police seized $8,040 in currency that Starling says was hers. Her boyfriend was arrested based on drugs found at another home, but he was later acquitted of the charges.

Starling has been trying to get her money back since the acquittal. She’s still trying.

The nonprofit Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm, plans an appeal to a federal court, seeking to reverse a judge’s decision that federal and local police can keep Starling’s money. Starling’s case, Institute attorneys say, is typical of many forfeiture cases in the country: The money is not an overwhelming amount and the administrative process so convoluted that people who lose their money simply give up.

“This is very common where it’s a small amount of money,” said Institute attorney Seth Young.  “You don’t hire a lawyer and the maze of forfeiture procedures trips up a person who represents themselves and the person ends up losing their money.”

Starling tried, without the aid of a lawyer, to chase down her seized money. She also lost use of two cars, which were also taken then later returned. She had to pay for a rental car during those weeks, she said.

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THE STATEN ISLAND district attorney’s use of the highly controversial Clearview face recognition system included attempts to dig up the social media accounts of homicide victims and was paid for with equally controversial asset forfeiture cash, according to city records provided to The Intercept.

Clearview has garnered international attention and intense criticism for its simple premise: What if you could instantly identify anyone in the world with only their picture? Using billions of images scraped from social media sites, Clearview sells police and other governmental agencies the ability to match a photo to a name using face recognition, no search warrant required — a power civil libertarians and privacy advocates say simply places too much unsupervised power in the hands of police.

The use of Clearview by the Staten Island district attorney’s office was first reported by Gothamist, citing city records obtained by the Legal Aid Society. Subsequent records procured via New York State Freedom of Information Law request and provided to The Intercept now confirm the initial concerns about the tool’s largely unsupervised use by prosecutors. According to spokesperson Ryan Lavis, the DA’s office “completely stopped utilizing Clearview as an investigative tool last year.”

Yet the documents provide new information about how Staten Island prosecutors used the notorious face recognition tool and show that the software was paid for with funds furnished by the Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing Program. The program lets state and local police hand seized cash and property over to a federal law enforcement agency, whereupon up to 80 percent of the proceeds are then sent back the original state or local department to pocket.

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What Happened When New Mexico Ended Civil Asset Forfeiture?

In 2015, New Mexico scrapped its civil asset forfeiture laws and replaced them with a criminal process requiring a conviction before forfeiture can commence. Law enforcement lobbyists warned that ending civil forfeiture would cause crime to skyrocket. So, what actually happened?

In a nutshell, nothing.

When the legislature was debating the 2015 reforms, law enforcement came out with dire warnings. The New Mexico Department of Public safety claimed that ending civil forfeiture would have “a negative impact on public safety” and could trigger a “reduction in criminal investigations.” In the bill analysis, the department testified, “This bill directly jeopardizes the most basic and fundamental key to successful narcotics investigations.”

The chair of the New Mexico Sheriff’s Association simply asserted, “You’ll get less law enforcement,” without civil asset forfeiture.

It didn’t turn out that way.

The Institute for Justice compared crime rates in neighboring Texas and Colorado for its Policing for Profit report and determined that “New Mexico’s overall crime rate did not rise following the implementation of strong forfeiture reform in 2015, nor did arrest rates drop.”

In fact, the overall trend in New Mexico’s offense rate was “even flatter than those for the control states.”

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Innocent Elderly Woman Pulled Over for No Reason as Cops Steal Her Life Savings, Prescription Medicine and Mock Her

In December 2021, Jeanetta Jones, 62, had harmed no one, committed no crime, and was simply driving home when she was targeted by officers with the the notoriously corrupt Brookside Police Department in Jefferson County, Alabama. By the end of the hour-long stop, Jones would be robbed of her life savings, her medicine stolen, and she would be publicly humiliated by the people who claim to protect society.

For decades now, federal government and their cronies in law enforcement have been carrying out theft of the citizenry on a massive scale using Civil Asset Forfeiture (CAF).

The 1980’s-era laws were designed to drain resources from powerful criminal organizations, but CAF has become a tool for law enforcement agencies across the U.S. to steal money and property from countless innocent people.

As Jones’ case illustrates, insidious police departments will use this “tool” as a means of preying on elderly innocent women to “legally” rob them on the side of the road. All the while, these agents of the state think they are the good guys.

On the day she was stopped, Jones was driving home just after 2 p.m. when, according to her recent lawsuit, officers pulled her over for no reason. When Jones asked the officers why they pulled her over, they responded by telling her that they could pull over anyone they wanted.

For the next hour, police would launch a fishing expedition in an attempt to rob Jones of any and all of her valuables. Using an unauthorized search, police would find $5,000 in cash in Jones’ vehicle — which she told them was her life savings. They would also find her prescription medicine.

By the end of the illegal search and seizure, Jones would be robbed of her life savings and her prescription medicine she needed for pain. When she begged the officers to return her property, they responded by mocking the elderly woman.

“She requested the return of her money and medication,” the lawsuit says. “They refused to return either and laughed at her, telling the plaintiff they could do whatever they wanted.”

When looking through the history of the Brookside police department, Jones lawsuit is one of many and their attitudes during her stop reflect exactly why that is.

As reports:

The lawsuit is the 13th filed against Brookside and its police department – or one for every 96 residents in the tiny north Jefferson County town. It claims Jones was falsely arrested and imprisoned, and that her rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments were violated. It seeks damages.

After she was robbed on the roadside, the perpetrators let her go and she was not charged with a crime.

“They didn’t give her a receipt for it. They didn’t arrest her for it. They just took it,” Roger Appell, Jones’ attorney said. “When they were leaving with her money and her prescription medicine, she asked them why are you doing this to us? Why are you doing this to me? And they looked at her and said because we can.”

“That seemed like to be nothing but a shakedown,” Jones said describing the traffic stop.

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Police Seized Almost $10,000 From Him. A Court Ruled He Had No Right to an Attorney.

In April 2015, police in Indiana seized almost $10,000 from Terry Abbott after he was arrested for selling drugs to a confidential informant.

Cops used a process known as civil forfeiture, allowing them to proceed with pocketing those funds prior to securing a criminal conviction. Naturally, Abbott attempted to challenge that action in court. But he lost his attorney—as the money he would use to pay for that counsel had been taken by the state.

So for years he had to represent himself.

The Indiana Supreme Court on Tuesday decided that’s in keeping with the law—ruling that defendants have no right to use their seized funds to finance legal representation.

“We do not find the legislature intended this language to give the court equitable authority to order the seized property released to the defendant to defend the forfeiture action,” wrote Justice Steven H. David, noting that the court’s hands were tied by the relevant statute on the books.

Central to the American criminal justice system is that every defendant is innocent until proven guilty. But civil forfeiture isn’t a criminal action; it’s a civil one, occurring in civil court, where defendants are not necessarily entitled to a lawyer. Only in certain extraordinary circumstances, the court ruled, is the state required to provide one.

Abbott didn’t qualify. This means that, in cases like his, the government is able to put defendants in a chokehold by seizing the very assets that they would use to defend themselves against such a seizure. Fighting to get your cash back is a bit difficult when the government has taken all of your cash.

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Snitches Get Riches From the FBI

Snitches have a new way to make money in Charlotte, North Carolina. By texting the FBI and tattling on people that have illegal cash, informants can make up to 25 percent of the money seized, according to an FBI news release. Jilted lovers, jealous friends, and nosy neighbors can now score big. The good news for anyone tempted by the offer is that federal law makes asset confiscation far too easy.

By using civil forfeiture, law enforcement agencies can take cash, cars, and other assets without convicting anyone of wrongdoing. The government doesn’t have to make an arrest, develop a theory about a specific crime, or even witness illegal behavior. Agents can bypass the criminal courtroom altogether.

According to the release, the tip line is designed to help agents intercept drug trafficking shipments through Charlotte. An example campaign graphic shows two agents gazing at a large pile of cash in the trunk of a car. A glowing neon headline reads: “Shine a light on drug trafficking.” The fine print focuses on the kickback, stating that if the tip “on where drug cash is being stored or transported” pans out, “you could receive up to 25% of the seized money.” The message is clear: snitching can be rewarding. But the ad fails to mention four important details.

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The FBI Seized Almost $1 Million From This Family—and Never Charged Them With a Crime

Carl Nelson and Amy Sterner Nelson’s pre-pandemic lives look a lot different than the ones they live now. There are the obvious ways, and then there are the not so obvious ways, like the fact that they sold their house and their car, liquidated their retirement funds, and moved their family of six from a comfortable West Seattle home to Amy’s sister’s basement after the FBI seized almost $1 million from them in May 2020.

“We went from living a life where we were both working full-time to provide for our four daughters to really figuring out how we were going to make it month to month,” Amy tells me. “It’s completely changed my belief in fairness.”

The bureau took funds from nearly every corner of the Nelsons’ world, including, for instance, the savings Amy racked up from her decade as a practicing attorney and her later efforts as head of The Riveter, the co-working start-up she founded. But the FBI never even suspected Amy of committing any crime. It was Carl they were investigating—a probe that has not resulted in a single charge against him almost two years later.

In April 2020, agents showed up at the Nelsons’ home and informed them that Carl—a former real estate transaction manager for Amazon—was under investigation for allegedly depriving the tech behemoth of his “honest services.” In plainer terms, they accused him of showing favor to certain developers and securing them deals in exchange for illegal kickbacks. “That never happened and is exactly why I’ve fought as long and hard as I have,” he says. “It’s that simple.”

Whether or not the FBI has come to that conclusion is still a mystery; its years-long investigation into Carl’s alleged fraud has not yielded an indictment. Yet no such thing was necessary for the federal government to wreck the Nelsons’ lives, costing them their home, their community, their jobs, their girls’ place in their Seattle school, and their security for the future.

Perhaps more vexing: The FBI has, in some sense, subtly conceded that it didn’t need to do any of the above to complete their investigation or to hamstring any supposed criminal operation run by Carl. Last week, the government agreed to a settlement: Of the original approximately $892,000 it seized, it will return $525,000, while Amy and Carl forfeit about $109,000. (The remaining sum has been depleted by court fees.)

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Ottawa Mayor Announces Cars Seized During Freedom Protests Should be Sold to Cover Costs Incurred by City

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told the CBC that the regime has the power to do this now that the Emergency Act was invoked by Prime Minister Trudeau.

The state-controlled CBC reported:

Ottawa’s mayor says any vehicles seized during the police crackdown on the occupation of the downtown should be sold to cover costs incurred by the city.

“We actually have the ability to confiscate those vehicles and sell them,” Mayor Jim Watson said Saturday.

“And I want to see them sold. I don’t want the return to these people who’ve been causing such frustration and angst in our community.”

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