by Kevin W. Bliss
The FBI agreed to return $1 million confiscated from Empyreal Logistics armored car company, which was seized as illegal drug money at the end of 2021. The proceeds belong to a state licensed marijuana manufacturing company that contracted with Empyreal for transport services. In return for the release of Empyreal’s money, the armored car company agreed to drop its lawsuit against the FBI, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), and the Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) but not San Bernardino County, California, Sheriff Shannon Dicus.
Represented by attorney Dan Alban of the Institute of Justice, Empyreal filed suit against Sheriff Dicus together with the FBI, DOJ, and DEA after its armored truck had been stopped three times within a three month period travelling through San Bernardino County. The first time the truck was stopped in November of 2021, cops seized $700,000 that belonged to a marijuana manufacturing company and was being shipped to a reserve. The second time in December of the same year, the company lost $350,000. The third stop, in January of 2022, did not result in seized money as the armored car was carrying rolls of coins that was not associated with marijuana manufacturing.
Empyreal claims that Dicus was attempting to circumvent a law passed in California in 2020 explicitly prohibiting the police from interfering with any state licensed medical marijuana programs when he seized the funds and then turned the seizure over to the DOJ for prosecution under the equitable sharing program, which would still allow the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office to keep 80% of the seized money.
Empyreal officials decided to reroute deliveries around San Bernardino County to avoid any further seizures. As well, officials decided to cut their $121,000 investment already spent in development of a vault and currency processing center to be located in that county and move it elsewhere.
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