Civil Forfeiture is when the feds confiscate funds and/or assets related to the commission of a crime. Some jurisdictions specifically use the term “confiscation” instead of “forfeiture”. Such asset confiscations can occur without a conviction and sometimes in the absence of evidence. Civil Asset Forfeiture is a part of the Criminal Justice system.
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.
The Institute for Justice is assisting a father and his daughter who own a grocery store in Fraser, MI because their entire bank account was wrongfully seized by the government.
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.
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 hopefully, the right of every American not to have their property wrongfully seized by government.
Every year the government seizes tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer money and redistributes these funds to “black” projects which are often unaccounted for. On September 10th, 2001, for example, Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admitted that the D.O.D. had lost around $2.3 Trillion. The funds were unaccounted for and any investigation into where they went ended the following day when the office holding the records in question was reportedly destroyed in the Pentagon attack.
No one was held to account. No one went to jail. No one was punished.
Make a suspicious transaction or can’t account for your money as a private citizen, however, and they will seize everything you own and treat you like a financial terrorist.
There are no warrants, no charges, no court proceedings. They just take it. And if you don’t comply, they’ll send an IRS SWAT team through your front door and imprison you.
What’s frightening about the experience of Terry and Sandy Dehko is that just months prior to their seizure of their assets the Internal Revenue Service completed an audit indicating that all of their records were legitimate, and their small business was operating within the guidelines of Federal tax law. No matter.
Then surveillance state flagging algorithms spotted them depositing suspicious amounts of money just below the $10,000 required federal reporting limit into their bank account, a necessity for the Dehkos because their insurance only covered up to $10,000 in losses, they were red flagged by automated monitoring systems as possible money launderers.
The feds relied on an automated system without an actual human checking to see if this was routine for the store owners. They didn’t look at how long they’d been in business nor did they look at the history of their bank deposits. They simply blasted in and took their money.
The IRS filed a secret warrant (a lot of that going on these days) accusing them of “structuring.” Because of the nature of civil forfeiture laws they now have to fight for their own money and prove their activities were legal. The IRS required no proof whatsoever. An accusation was enough.
These heavy handed practices will not get any better going forward, especially considering the fiscal state of our nation. The IRS and other government agencies are booming, hiring on thousands of new employees for enforcement, and arming them with assault weapons and ammunition for those who reuse to comply.
Last year the government took in over $4 billion in forfeiture money. How much of that was from Americans like the Dehkos, who did nothing wrong? Not only is Big Brother watching you, he’s coming to take your money too.