The FBI hasn't exactly been covering itself in glory these days. From hiding thousands of hours of January 6 footage to lying about policing speech, they keep stacking up the L's. This latest involves two separate Americans who allege the FBI lost (or otherwise) their personal property: namely hundreds of thousands of dollars in coins and cash.
The New York Post reports:
Two Americans are alleging the FBI lost or stole their property after seizing it through a “shady” process.
“All we know is that their property was in a box and safe before the FBI broke into the box,” Joe Gay, an attorney with the nonprofit law firm Institute for Justice, told Fox News. “Once the FBI broke into the box, we honestly don’t know exactly what happened.”
“We don’t know if they lost it. We don’t know if somebody pocketed it and walked away,” he continued. “We have no way to know.”
The Institute for Justice filed two lawsuits Friday on behalf of clients who had property seized from their safety deposit boxes in a March 2021 FBI raid on U.S. Private Vaults, a Beverly Hills–based company.
Neither of the two plaintiffs, Don Mellein and Jeni Pearsons, was ever charged with a crime. The company they stored their safety deposit boxes with, U.S. Private Vaults, was shut down after the raid and the company pleaded guilty to laundering drug money.
The FBI told Mellein and Pearsons their belongings were confiscated under the nefarious 'civil asset forfeiture.' After hiring attorneys to reclaim their property, Mellein and Pearsons learned some of their items were missing and the FBI has no record of them.
Twitter/X has questions:
Lost where? In a pawn shop outside of D.C. somewhere?— Chaz Covfefe (@Chaz_Covfefe) September 25, 2023
Wouldn't we like to know? More like some budget line item, we're guessing.
They should have had a warrant for each box, not the whole facility.— Bruce Brandt (@k8smate) September 25, 2023
No individual warrant and no proof what was in EACH box?
How can they prosecute anyone tied to illegally stashed valuables WO proof it was their box and contents.
This writer isn't a lawyer, but it seems this would be the sane, constitutional, and just way to do things. It seems wrong and immoral to take the property of anyone, especially people not convicted of crimes, but what do we know?
So let me get this straight, a company was was doing something illegal, but the thousands of customers who were innocent have to suffer loss of property/money bc of another entity's actions? How is that justice?— Collin (@DoktorCollin) September 25, 2023
An excellent question. The answer is simple: it's not justice.
The funniest (in a very not-funny but maddeningly ironic way) part of all this: the FBI investigated itself and found it did nothing wrong! Just a 'Whoops, our bad!' and they expected this to go away.
I am sorry but when there is proof your agency stole coins and you investigate yourself and find nothing wrong you are admitting that you are thieves, liars, cheats, and a corrupt agency. https://t.co/ZC3RPyIK9B— Your Biggest Fan (@abigfanofyou777) September 25, 2023
Find the fault in that logic. (There is none).
I'll vote for any politician of any party who gets rid of Civil Asset Forfeiture https://t.co/kwe5bMyZWZ— David Ellis (@Ellisinthe404) September 25, 2023
A very tempting proposition. Civil Assess Forfeiture is horrible and needs to be yeeted into the sun.
But by all means, let's give them raises, more power, and expand them. https://t.co/uAeYuPB5NZ— BIll (@MachinistMan70) September 25, 2023
What could possibly go wrong?
Seems to be a pattern. A very nefarious pattern.
“Losing” https://t.co/VN5yiEU5v0— Blake (@Blake_fl_) September 25, 2023
Lots of people accurately putting 'losing' in quotes.
If you were on the fence about the FBI this story should push you over the edge. It is time to disband the organization and start over. This is beyond ridiculous. https://t.co/hCD3AaPE8S— @amuse (@amuse) September 25, 2023
Many of us were there a long time ago. Maybe this will be the straw that breaks the camel's back. We can hope.
Civil forfeiture should be at least be preponderance of evidence that the asserts seized were used in a crime and need to be signed off by a judge. The fact that citizens who are accused of no crimes have to spend money to get items stolen by the government back is appalling https://t.co/6T37CHPqXH— Jon Leslie (@JonLeslieNH) September 25, 2023
Exactly. Due process and all of that is critical.
For their part, the Institute for Justice, Mellein, and Pearsons are not taking this lying down.
They are suing the FBI, and hoping to change the outcome for future victims of government bad actors and civil asset forfeiture:
The Institute for Justice’s lawsuits not only aim to get Mellein and Pearson’s property back, but also to give victims of civil forfeiture the ability to challenge agencies if their property goes missing.
“We’re basically fighting against the notion that people shouldn’t have a remedy against the government when the government takes their property,” Gay said.
Both Mellein and Pearson said the most eye-opening part of the entire experience was feeling law enforcement cheated and lied to them.
“When I was growing up, we trusted and respected law enforcement, especially the FBI,” Mellein said. “I’m not filing this lawsuit just for me, I’m fighting for a better world where people can trust law enforcement to do the right thing. I’m fighting to make law enforcement better.”
“I would love to be able to be thankful to law enforcement for taking care of whatever criminal circumstance there was and for making sure that my involvement with it didn’t have to be painful,” Pearsons said. “But rather, they’ve literally stolen.”
We wish Mellein, Pearsons, and the Institute for Justice the best of luck as they take on the FBI, and hopefully make things better for all Americans when it comes to civil asset forfeiture and government incompetence and corruption.
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