Florida’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Reforms Haven’t Stopped the Shakedowns

On a May day in 2015, a task force of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents and Miami-Dade Police Department officers raided Miladis Salgado’s suburban Miami home and seized $15,000 in cash that they found in her closet.

The DEA agents were acting on a tip from a confidential informant that Salgado’s estranged husband was laundering drug money.

The cash in Salgado’s closet was not drug proceeds, however. It was money that Salgado, who worked at a duty-free store in the Miami airport, had been saving up for her daughter’s quinceañera, an important coming-of-age 15th birthday party. Salgado had been planning to book a banquet hall, D.J., and -photographer. Suddenly bereft of her savings, she had to cancel the party.

It took two years for Salgado to get her money back, even after a DEA agent admitted in a deposition that there was no connection between her cash and the alleged criminal activity. In the meantime, Florida passed a law reforming the state’s civil asset forfeiture process, which allows law enforcement to seize property—cash, cars, houses—even when the owner isn’t convicted of a crime. The 2016 law raised the burden of proof for forfeiting property and now requires at least an arrest before most property can be forfeited.

But despite tightening the rules for when police can keep seized property, Florida remains one of the most prolific practitioners of civil forfeiture. The Sunshine State took in more revenue through forfeitures than any other state in 2018, according to a survey by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning public interest law firm. Local and state police can evade the new restrictions by working with the federal government, just like the Miami-Dade police did in Salgado’s case. In return for calling in the feds, they get a cut of the proceeds.

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Thieving Cops Steal Innocent Retired Marine’s Life Savings, $86K, Because It Smelled Like Drugs

Stephen Lara dedicated 20 years of his life to serving this country as a United States Marine. This father of two served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, risking his life to protect a political system only to be chewed up and spit out by that very system when he returned. Because this system is set up to extract revenue through various means of extortion and theft, when armed agents of the state robbed Lara of his life savings on the side of the road, everything they did was considered “legal.”

In February of this year, Lara was driving from Texas to California to visit his two daughters who live with his ex-wife. He had committed no crime, police had no probable cause for which to pull him over, he had had broken no traffic laws, yet still, a Nevada Highway Patrol officer decided to initiate a traffic stop.

This wasn’t an ordinary traffic stop that would end in a small extortion via citation, however. No, this was legalized road piracy in which police would steal an innocent father’s life savings.

As the video below shows, after Lara was pulled over, the cop who detained him actually complimented his driving. This psychopath, who was about to rob a man of his life savings was cordial and nice as he carried out his roadside theft.

Lara was completely honest with the officer and told him that he had a large sum of cash in his car because he had withdrawn his cash from the bank. He actually had the receipts from the bank to prove this, yet the officer claimed something nefarious was afoot and he called in his fellow officers to separate Lara from his life savings.

Because they can’t simply take the cash for themselves, these thieving road pirates have to go through a federal procedure via the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) known as “adoption.” If they steal his life savings in the name of the DEA, the DEA will “adopt” the money and then kick back 80% of that money back to the department through a program called “equitable sharing.”

“Adoption,” as the Institute for Justice points out, is a process by which federal law enforcement agencies can take over a seizure by state and local law enforcement. If the federal government is successful in forfeiting the property, its “equitable sharing” program guarantees the state or local agency that seized the property up to 80% of the proceeds for use in the agency’s budget.

It literally creates an incentive for cops to steal money from innocent people like Lara.

Since Lara had committed no crime, the officers on the scene needed to manufacture a reason to steal his life savings, so they called in a drug dog to smell Lara’s cash.

It is widely known that a large percentage (upwards 0f 90%) of U.S. paper money contains trace amounts of cocaine. Having a large amount of cash will most assuredly alert a drug dog.

In fact, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that government does not have probable cause to seize cash from individuals based only on a drug-detection dog’s reaction; stating specifically that the majority of money in circulation has drugs on it.

But court precedents and ethical enforcement of the law apparently mean very little the road pirates who targeted Lara that day and when the drug dog alerted to Lara’s cash, the officers used this a reason to steal an innocent man’s life savings.

As he had committed no crime, after they robbed him, the officers left Lara on the side of the road with nothing — not even enough money to get gas to make it home. Lara had to ask his brother to wire him money just so he could make it to see his daughters.

It would take Lara the remainder of the year to get his money back, only after he sued the DEA in federal court. Even though he’s gotten his money back, however, Lara is going to continue to fight and the Institute for Justice is helping him wage his war.

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FBI And Other Agencies Paid Informants $548 Million In Recent Years With Many Committing Authorized Crimes

Federal agencies paid out at least $548 million to informants working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), in recent years, according to government audits.

  • A few informants became millionaires, with some Amtrak and “parcel” delivery workers making nearly $1 million or more.
  • Many informants were authorized to commit “crimes” with the permission of their federal handlers. In a four-year period, there were 22,800 crime authorizations (2011-2014).
  • The FBI paid approximately $294 million (FY2012-2018), the DEA paid at least $237 million (FY2011-2015), and ATF paid approximately $17.2 million total (FY2012-2015) to informants.

Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com compiled this information by reviewing federal reports. While some of the data is several-years old; it’s apparently the most recent available.

The FBI spent an average of $42 million a year on confidential human sources between fiscal years 2012 and 2018. “Long term” informants comprised 20 percent of its intelligence relationships (source: DOJ IG 2019 report).

The ATF employed 1,855 informants who were paid $4.3 million annually (FY2012-2015). Therefore, on average, each informant made $2,318 for the year. (source: DOJ IG report 2017).

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Men Who Killed Haiti President Revealed as FBI Informants, as Three Presidents Die After Blocking Vaccine Distribution

According to a report from the Daily Mail, one of the Americans arrested for the murder of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was a DEA informant who handed over a warlord responsible for heading up the last coup in the country.  

The DEA has admitted some of their ‘confidential sources’ were involved in the assassination but denied the US government orchestrated the plot.

Joseph Vincent, 55, has been named by sources to the Miami Herald as one of the informants. 

Vincent was one of three US citizens arrested for being behind the early morning raid on the president’s home. The two others named are James Solages, and Christian Emmanuel Sanon. Approximately 20 Colombians are also under arrest for the assassination.

According to a report, several of the arrested suspects are FBI informants, and many of the Columbians were once trained by the US Military according to the Washington Post.

An associate of Sanon suggested that Washington DC backed the president’s assassination, claiming their friend said the mission was supposed to ‘save Haiti from hell, with full support from the US government’.  

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Friend of ‘mastermind’ behind assassination of Haiti president says America BACKED the killing – as it’s revealed DEA informant and FBI informants are among suspected hitmen

One of the Americans arrested over the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was a DEA informant who handed over the warlord responsible for leading the last coup in the Caribbean nation, it has been revealed.    

The DEA has admitted one of their ‘confidential sources’ was involved in the assassination, denied it orchestrated the plot and disclosed that he called them after the killing and they advised him to hand himself in.

Joseph Vincent, 55, has been named by sources to the Miami Herald as the DEA informant. 

Vincent helped the DEA in 2017 to arrest Guy Philippe, who led a 2004 coup against then-President Jean Bertrand Aristide, on drugs trafficking charges, the sources said. Vincent was with Haitian Police when Philippe was handed over to the DEA at an airport. Philippe is now serving nine years in a US federal prison.   

Vincent was one of three US citizens arrested last week on suspicion of being behind Wednesday’s early morning deadly raid on the president’s home. The two others are James Solages, 35, a maintenance worker, and Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a 63-year-old doctor and pastor, who is accused of being the mastermind. 23 Colombians are also under arrest. 

A number of the arrested suspects are FBI informants, CNN reported. 

Footage from the early Wednesday assassination shows an attacker with an American accent shouting in English ‘this is a DEA operation’ as the hit squad arrived at the president’s mansion. 

Haitian police also said they uncovered a hat with DEA emblazoned across it in the home of Sanon – along with a stash of weapons.  

An associate of Sanon has suggested Washington backed the president’s assassination, saying their friend had claimed the mission was supposed to ‘save Haiti from hell, with support from the US government’.  

Both US and Haitian authorities insisted in the hours after the assassination that the DEA was not involved. 

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DEA Report Shows Marijuana Arrests And Seizures Up In 2020

Data recently released by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency shows that federal law enforcement agents and their state and local partners seized more than 4.5 million marijuana plants in 2020, a figure that is up nearly 20% over 2019. The annual DEA report also shows that federal law enforcement officers made nearly 5,000 cannabis-related arrests in 2020, a year wracked by the social and economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the data published in the DEA’s yearly Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program Statistical Report, approximately 4.54 million cannabis plants were seized and eradicated in 2020, up from about 4 million plants in 2019. The totals include more than 3.7 million cannabis plants seized from 4,151 outdoor grow sites and more than 830,000 plants confiscated from 1,286 indoor cultivation operations.

“In 2020, the DEA continued its nationwide cannabis eradication efforts, providing resources to support the 127 state and local law enforcement agencies that actively participate in the program,” the agency wrote on its website. “This assistance allows the enhancement of already aggressive eradication enforcement activities throughout the nation.”

The data in the DEA report also showed that nearly 5,000 arrests for federal marijuana-related offenses were made by law enforcement officers in 2020. That figure is up slightly over 2019 when 4,718 arrests for federal marijuana crimes were made by agents. 

California saw the largest percentage of both arrests and confiscated cannabis plants in the country, a trend that continues from previous years. In 2020, approximately 82% of the seized cannabis plants and 40% of the marijuana-related arrests nationwide occurred in California. Nationwide, agents seized more than $41 million in assets related to the DEA’s marijuana eradication efforts in 2020.

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