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Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws Prompts Class Action Lawsuit

The lawsuit identifies several plaintiffs, including Terrence Rolin and Stacy Jones. Rolin is a retired railroad engineer and had given his daughter, Rebecca Brown, his life savings of $82,373 to deposit in a bank. Brown arrived for a flight out of a Pittsburgh airport where the money was seized by the DEA. Jones had $43,167 seized by the DEA during a flight home to Tampa from Wilmington, North Carolina. TSA screeners alerted the local sheriff’s office, which in turn alerted the DEA. Jones and her husband were interrogated by both a sheriff’s deputy and two DEA agents. Jones and her husband claimed the money was for a gambling trip and from the sale of the couple’s car. Despite evidence supporting this explanation, law enforcement deemed it “fishy” and seized the money as “it was related to drug trafficking.” There was no evidence to support that determination. In response to the lawsuit, the DEA provided notice to Jones on November 12, 2020, that it would be returning her money. “We are glad that Stacy will get her money back, but it is shameful that federal agents keep targeting innocent flyers at our nation’s airports,” Institute for Justice senior attorney Dan Alban said. He added, “We are going to keep fighting to end TSA’s and DEA’s unconstitutional and unlawful practices of seizing people and their cash without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.”

Abuse of forfeiture laws has become a huge issue in this nation recently. In 2016, the DEA seized $209 million from around 5,200 people at 15 major airports over the previous 10-year period, USA Today reported. A 2017 Justice Department Office of Inspector General report found that an additional $4 billion in cash was seized by the DEA throughout the country during the same period. Around $3.2 billion of it was never even connected to any criminal charges. In an Institute for Justice press release, Jones was quoted as saying, “In going through this nightmare, I found out that I’m not the only innocent American who has been treated this way. I hope that my continuing lawsuit will end the government’s practice of treating people flying with cash like criminals.” 

 

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