Government Sued for Allegedly Seizing $100 Million In Cash, Gold And Jewelry From Hundreds Of People Without Explanation

The Institute for Justice has filed a lawsuit to stop forfeiture proceedings targeting a group of individuals whose assets were seized by the FBI without adequate explanation.

According to the lawsuit, the government did not specify why it abruptly seized more than $100 million from people’s safety deposit boxes in California. 

At the heart of the matter is a Los Angeles couple who claim that the FBI seized $40,200, their entire life savings, from a safety deposit box. 

Linda and Reggie Martin are seeking answers as to why the FBI took their money, along with belongings stored in numerous other people’s safety deposit boxes, from a financial storage company in Beverly Hills in March 2021. 

According to the Martins, the agency seized their funds without presenting any evidence.

“The FBI took my savings nearly two years ago but has never told me why. It’s been a confusing and frustrating process from the day my money was taken. No one should have to go through this,” Linda said, according to a press release from the institute.

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According to the court filing by the Institute for Justice, the FBI seized more than $100 million in cash, gold, jewelry and other valuables from hundreds of people at the Beverly Hills location. 

The FBI sent blanket notices that “indirectly refer to hundreds of federal crimes,” but the government refused to say what the couple did wrong, according to the release. 

The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asks the court to halt administrative proceedings for anyone who received one of the FBI’s forfeiture notices.

Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Rob Frommer said that civil and criminal forfeiture is a big money maker for federal law enforcement.

“Thousands of times every year, people receive paltry notices that merely say the government wants to forfeit their property because it might be wrapped up in one of hundreds of federal crimes,” he said. 

“Linda’s plight highlights the ugly truth that federal forfeiture incentivizes agents to seize as much as they can, even absent any reason to think that a crime was committed. The FBI’s ‘policing for profit’ deliberately leaves property owners in the dark in order to keep them from fighting back,” Frommer added. 

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