Government Thug-ocrats Are Forced To Give Back The Money They Stole From One Man Under "Asset Forfeiture"
I am someone who is wildly grateful to have been the recipient of a pro bono legal defense -- by Marc J. Randazza after TSA worker Thedala Magee got herself a lawyer and tried to squeeze me for $500K plus a blog take-down and a written apology.
She got none of that -- but it took countless hours worth thousands and thousands of dollars by Randazza and his associates for my defense.
In other words, pro bono is not free.
So while it is just wonderful that the Institute for Justice won the case for "asset forfeiture" victim Ken Quran -- who had $150,000 of his money legally stolen by government thug-ocrats -- it is terrible that this was necessary.
And it was surely costly for the Institute for Justice to bring this case.
Many victims of this government theft -- this disgustingly euphemized "asset forfeiture" -- would have the entire sum stolen from them eaten up by hiring a lawyer to get it back.
And those who are victimized tend not to be the powerhouses of society -- maybe they wouldn't even know how to find the right lawyer.
About the current case, John Kramer writes at IJ:
Arlington, Va.--It is a major victory for the individual against the seemingly all-powerful IRS. In a single-page letter, sent this morning by fax, the IRS agreed to return a North Carolina convenience store owner's entire life savings.
The IRS seized $153,907.99 from Ken Quran in June 2014, without any warning or meaningful prior investigation, simply because he repeatedly withdrew cash from his bank in amounts under $10,000.
Ken's money was seized under so-called "structuring" laws. These laws were designed to target criminals evading bank-reporting requirements. But under IRS policy at the time of the seizure, the IRS applied the structuring laws to seize cash from individuals and businesses accused only of frequent under-$10,000 cash transactions.
The IRS changed its policies in October 2014 to prevent such seizures. But those changes came too late for people like Ken, whose property was seized before the policy change.
So, in July 2015, the Institute for Justice submitted a petition to the IRS on Ken's behalf, arguing that the IRS should apply its policy retroactively to Ken's case. The petition argued that the money "would not be seized--much less forfeited--under current government policy" and urged the IRS to "do the right thing and give the money back."
This week, IJ sent a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen following up on the petition--and urging the IRS to act quickly to give Ken his money back.
Today's letter states that Ken's petition is granted "in full."
"I'm so happy," said Ken, "The IRS never should have taken my money in the first place, but I'm so grateful that it has now done the right thing. I worked hard for that money. This is justice."
The Institute for Justice also filed a petition in July 2015 on behalf of Randy Sowers, a Maryland dairy farmer who had $29,500 forfeited by the IRS. There has not yet been any ruling on Randy's petition.
"If the IRS is willing to do the right thing for Ken, they should do the right thing for Randy--and all the other property owners in the same situation," said IJ Attorney Robert Everett Johnson, who represents both Ken and Randy. "Today's decision opens a way for other victims of the structuring laws to get back what's rightfully theirs."
According to data obtained by the Institute for Justice from the IRS via the Freedom of Information Act, the IRS forfeited about $43 million in 618 structuring cases between 2007 and 2013 in which the IRS reported no suspicion of criminal activity other than the mere fact of sub-$10,000 cash deposits.
Here's another example of how this works -- how stacked the deck is against a citizen. From the IJ site:
Rhonda Cox, the Arizona mother whose son was arrested for theft, learned this the hard way. After her truck was seized, she told two police officers that it was hers and that she had nothing to do with her son's crime. Both told her that she would never get her property back. Cox then provided proof of ownership to the county attorney's office and explained that she had no knowledge of the truck's involvement with any illegal activity. The prosecutor rejected her plea and started legal actions to forfeit her truck.
On her own and without a lawyer, Cox filed the paperwork required to challenge the forfeiture as an innocent owner--paying a $304 filing fee for the privilege. But eventually she gave up. The legal process was too convoluted, and--as the prosecutor had warned her--if she lost, not only would she lose the truck, but under Arizona law she would also have to pay the government's legal costs. 19
Cox lost her truck without ever having been accused of a crime and without ever having gotten her day in court. Innocent third-party owners who do make it to court will often face a bizarre and almost impossible task: proving their own innocence.
As shown in Figure 8, innocent owner provisions in federal law and 35 states place the burden of proof on owners, meaning that owners must prove they had nothing to do with the alleged crime. In essence, most civil forfeiture laws presume that people are connected to any criminal activity involving their property and force them to prove otherwise to recover it. This is precisely the opposite of what happens in criminal trials, where the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty by the government. It also often involves a practical impossibility, as it requires people to prove a negative--that they did not know about or consent to the illegal use of their property.
Only 10 states and the District of Columbia demand that the government prove owners did something wrong before forfeiting their property. In the remaining states, whether the burden of proof falls on the owner or the government generally depends on the type of property involved.
Another case -- from the Freeman:
Willie Jones of Nashville was flying to Houston on February 27, 1991, to purchase plants for his landscaping business. Because Jones was black and paid cash for his plane ticket, the ticket clerk reported him to nearby Drug Enforcement Agency officers, who presumed Jones was a drug courier. DEA officers at the Nashville airport approached Jones, checked his identification, and asked permission to search him. Although Jones refused to grant permission, the officers searched him anyway and found $9,000 in cash. The DEA agents then announced that they were "detaining" the money. Jones observed: "They said I was going to buy drugs with it, that their dog sniffed it and said it had drugs on it." (A 1989 study found that 70 percent of all the currency in the United States had cocaine residue on it.) Jones never saw the dog. The officers didn't arrest Jones, but they kept the money. When Jones asked the officers for a receipt for his money, they handed him a receipt for an "undetermined amount of U.S. currency." Jones objected and asked the officers to count the money out, but the officers refused, claiming that such an action would violate DEA policy.
Federal judge Thomas Wiseman, in an April 1993 decision, concluded that "the officers' behavior at this point was casual and sarcastic . . . /they believed that the seizure of the currency was all but a fait accompli . . . they cared little for Mr. Jones's feelings of insecurity." Judge Wiseman concluded that the DEA officials' testimony on the seizure was "misleading," "unconvincing," and "inconsistent" and ordered the money returned--after a two- year legal battle. Jones observed: "I didn't know it was against the law for a 42-year-old black man to have money in his pocket."
This is absolutely sick. Property rights and the protection of property rights are foundational to a democracy.
Yet here we are: The state can steal your cash or goods by simply saying that you did something wrong. You are forced to "prove" -- at great expense and with great effort -- that you didn't to get your cash or property through criminal activity.
And we are better than unfree countries how?
Welcome to the Confiscation State. That's a lovely watch you have. Proceeds from a drug deal?