Posts Tagged ‘civil forfeiture’

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Yeah, let’s do that

May 2, 2015

Here’s recent e-mail from Chip Mellor at the Institute for Justice.

IJ’s fight to end civil forfeiture continues with a new lawsuit on behalf of Lyndon McLellan, a convenience store owner in rural North Carolina who had $107,702 seized last summer by the IRS. Despite a policy change by the IRS last fall indicating that they would no longer pursue such cases, the DOJ filed a civil forfeiture complaint in December against Lyndon to forfeit his cash without even accusing him of a crime.

After Lyndon’s case was brought up in congressional testimony this past February, the U.S. Attorney in charge of Lyndon’s case told Lyndon’s lawyer, “Whoever made [the document] public may serve their own interest but will not help this particular case. Your client needs to resolve this or litigate it. But publicity about it doesn’t help. It just ratchets up feelings in the agency. My offer is to return 50% of the money. The offer is good until March 30th COB.”

Lyndon, however, is unwilling to give the government a single penny of his hard-earned money and teamed up with IJ to get his money back. You can read more about the lawsuit in the New York Times article[…]

The NYT article is fairly short and worth your time.

And here’s a video IJ produced about this case.


So, yeah, let’s "ratchet up feelings in the agency." That sounds like an excellent idea to me… just in a different manner than Steve West (the U.S. Attorney quoted above) has in mind. Maybe a 50%, across-the-board staff reduction at the IRS would do it? Then we could look at DOJ too?

The gall of a government lawyer saying, basically, "shut up before we get really ticked off" piques my ire. It’s a stereotypical lawyer’s line, isn’t it? What do you call 5000 dead lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?

And the idea of a government attorney haggling over $50,000 gives you some idea of how much "justice" is going down at the Department of Justice. That’s a whopping 0.0000157 of the $3,176,000,000 Congress enacted for the 2015 US Budget. No reflection on Mr. McLellan’s business, but it’s like the Mafia shaking down kids with lemonade stands. (Except the thugs’d have too much pride, I think.)

That 0.0000157 is impressive! They only need 63,520 more cases like this one to pay for this year’s Federal spending. Hey, don’t laugh… you could be next.

I think someone needs to quit his government job and go find a real one. Maybe one where he’s not biting the hand that feeds him.

More seriously, Congress needs to call its damned dogs and put a clear and definite end to civil forfeiture.


Update 5/14
More e-mail today from Mr. Mellor:

Less than two weeks after IJ announced its involvement in a civil forfeiture action against Lyndon McLellan, a convenience store owner in rural North Carolina whose entire bank account of more than $100,000 was seized by the IRS, the government has admitted defeat and dropped its case against Lyndon. This means he will get back all the money he worked so hard to earn.

The case has made national headlines, including The New York Times, Drudge, Fox News, Forbes, Vox, and MSN.com. You can read early coverage of the dismissal in the Raleigh News & Observer piece below.

All the best,
Chip

Raleigh News & Observer
Prosecutors drop IRS seizure case against Fairmont convenience store owner
By Anne Blythe
May 14, 2015

Lyndon McLellan, a convenience store owner in rural Robeson County, became an emblem for the many ways that IRS seizure and civil forfeiture laws have dogged run-of-the-mill business owners who operate with cash.

For nearly a year, the 50-year-old Fairmont man has been fighting the federal government to recover the $107,702.66 seized from his business account without any allegations of crime.

On Wednesday, nearly two weeks after The New York Times profiled his struggle with the government, McLellan received a welcome call from his lawyer.

U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker, the top federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of North Carolina, had dismissed the case that since July had blocked his access to his money.

Thank goodness for the IJ. I don’t know many more practical ways of spending your money to fight government overreach than by donating to IJ.

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Policing for Profit

November 24, 2013

This snippet comes from the latest article in a series of reports on Policing for Profit by reporter Phil Williams with WTVF in Nashville, Tennessee. Mister Williams has done quite a job reporting on this topic.

There’s video at the link (and for all of his reports, I believe).

Task Force Head Claims ‘Terrorism’ Behind $160,000 Seizure

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There was stunning testimony Wednesday before a state Senate committee as a local drug task force found itself facing tough questions.

The director of the 23rd Judicial District Drug Task Force responded to those questions — about whether his agency was “policing for profit” — with new claims that agents are really taking money out of the hands of terrorists.

While there’s absolutely no evidence that the terrorism claim is true, the task force director ended up inadvertently conceding that interstate interdiction units do indeed have a profit motive.

“You said if the money is not there they could potentially lose their jobs or they could potentially lose those bonuses,” observed Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, toward the end of the hearing. […]

Via The Agitator

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When injustice becomes law (1)

September 26, 2013

The IRS seized Mr. Dehko’s cash because he was suspected of the crime of "structuring." He wasn’t charged or convicted, mind you — only suspected. So the Feds didn’t sue Mr. Dehko; instead they sued his $35,651.11. I’m sure that makes sense to some lawyer somewhere. To me it just sounds like a license to steal.

Thank Heaven for the Institute for Justice. If you want to lend a hand, here’s how.

United States v. $35,651.11
Feds Seize Family Grocery Store’s Entire Bank Account

Can the government use civil forfeiture to take your money when you have done nothing wrong—and then pocket the proceeds? The IRS thinks so.

For over 30 years, Terry Dehko has successfully run a grocery store in Fraser, Mich., with his daughter Sandy. In January 2013, without warning, the federal government used civil forfeiture to seize all of the money from the Dehkos’ store bank account (more than $35,000) even though they’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. Their American Dream is now a nightmare.

Federal civil forfeiture law features an appalling lack of due process: It empowers the government to seize private property from Americans without ever charging, let alone convicting, them of a crime. Perversely, the government then pockets the proceeds while providing no prompt way to get a court to review the seizure.

On September 25, 2013, Terry and Sandy teamed up with the Institute for Justice to fight back in federal court. A victory will vindicate not just their right to be free from abusive forfeiture tactics, but the right of every American not to have their property wrongfully seized by government.


Update from the Institute:

IRS Backs Down:
Michigan Forfeiture Cases Voluntarily Dismissed
Government Will Return Seized Money to Small-Business Owners; Federal Lawsuit Continues Over Right to Prompt Hearing

WEB RELEASE: November 15, 2013

Arlington, Va.—Just hours after the Institute for Justice announced it was joining another civil forfeiture lawsuit in Michigan against the federal government, the IRS filed motions to voluntarily dismiss two forfeiture actions against innocent Detroit-area small-business owners. Terry Dehko of Fraser, Mich., and Mark Zaniewski of Sterling Heights, Mich., will each get back all of the money seized without warning from their business’s bank accounts (over $100,000 in total) by the federal government.

While today’s victories vindicate the property rights of Dehko and Zaniewski, they do not solve the nationwide forfeiture problem. […] A separate federal lawsuit filed in September by the Institute for Justice on behalf of Terry Dehko and his daughter, Sandra Thomas, seeks to reform civil forfeiture law to protect the constitutional rights of property owners. That lawsuit will continue.

“The IRS should not be raiding the bank accounts of innocent Americans, and it should not take a team of lawyers to put a stop to this behavior,” said IJ Senior Attorney Clark Neily. “We are thrilled that Terry, Sandy, and Mark will finally get their money back, but their fight does not end today. Our constitutional lawsuit against the federal government seeks to rein in the shameful practice of civil forfeiture.”

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A license to steal

August 12, 2013

Here’s the start of a long article on civil forfeiture by Sarah Stillman that appears in The New Yorker. RTWT.

Taken
Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes. Is that all we’re losing?

On a bright Thursday afternoon in 2007, Jennifer Boatright, a waitress at a Houston bar-and-grill, drove with her two young sons and her boyfriend, Ron Henderson, on U.S. 59 toward Linden, Henderson’s home town, near the Texas-Louisiana border. They made the trip every April, at the first signs of spring, to walk the local wildflower trails and spend time with Henderson’s father. This year, they’d decided to buy a used car in Linden, which had plenty for sale, and so they bundled their cash savings in their car’s center console. Just after dusk, they passed a sign that read “Welcome to Tenaha: A little town with BIG Potential!”

They pulled into a mini-mart for snacks. When they returned to the highway ten minutes later, Boatright, a honey-blond “Texas redneck from Lubbock,” by her own reckoning, and Henderson, who is Latino, noticed something strange. The same police car that their eleven-year-old had admired in the mini-mart parking lot was trailing them. Near the city limits, a tall, bull-shouldered officer named Barry Washington pulled them over.

He asked if Henderson knew that he’d been driving in the left lane for more than half a mile without passing.

No, Henderson replied. He said he’d moved into the left lane so that the police car could make its way onto the highway.

Were there any drugs in the car? When Henderson and Boatright said no, the officer asked if he and his partner could search the car.

The officers found the couple’s cash and a marbled-glass pipe that Boatright said was a gift for her sister-in-law, and escorted them across town to the police station. In a corner there, two tables were heaped with jewelry, DVD players, cell phones, and the like. According to the police report, Boatright and Henderson fit the profile of drug couriers: they were driving from Houston, “a known point for distribution of illegal narcotics,” to Linden, “a known place to receive illegal narcotics.” The report describes their children as possible decoys, meant to distract police as the couple breezed down the road, smoking marijuana. (None was found in the car, although Washington claimed to have smelled it.)

The county’s district attorney, a fifty-seven-year-old woman with feathered Charlie’s Angels hair named Lynda K. Russell, arrived an hour later. Russell, who moonlighted locally as a country singer, told Henderson and Boatright that they had two options. They could face felony charges for “money laundering” and “child endangerment,” in which case they would go to jail and their children would be handed over to foster care. Or they could sign over their cash to the city of Tenaha, and get back on the road. “No criminal charges shall be filed,” a waiver she drafted read, “and our children shall not be turned over to CPS,” or Child Protective Services.

“Where are we?” Boatright remembers thinking. “Is this some kind of foreign country, where they’re selling people’s kids off?” Holding her sixteen-month-old on her hip, she broke down in tears.

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