Millions of dollars in folding cash, exotic cars, gold jewelry, rare weapons and even boxes of iPhones are being offered by the government back to their owners, if they can prove their innocence.
It’s more evidence that America is becoming a police state, according to the author of “Police State USA: How Orwell’s Nightmare is Becoming Our Reality.”
“The lists of all the properties and cash the federal government has taken in recent months are breathtaking,” said Cheryl Chumley. “But what’s worse is it’s not really known just how much of that cash, or how many of those properties, are the result of forfeitures with accompanying investigations that actually led to convictions.”
One part of the government’s vast Internet presence, a section called Forfeiture.gov, posts lists of properties confiscated recently by various law enforcement actions. New lists were posted Monday.
Many of the confiscations are done when police have only suspicion there might have been an offense. And there are complicated procedures to follow if the owners want to reclaim their assets, ranging from two rounds of ammunition worth 20 cents to piles of cash.
Among the seized assets documented in the new lists: The contents of a Chase bank account in Irving, Texas, that contained $39,000.90, meaning federal authorities have the money.
There also are nearly 100 iPhones worth nearly $30,000 formerly owned by a Mr. Li in Memphis, Texas.
Then there is the “$701 in U.S. currency valued at $701 seized on April 20, 2014 in West St. Paul, Minnesota” from Terrell Williams.
A Louis Vuitton purse, worth $2,730, was taken from Kafi Rahman Farrakhan in Puerto Rico, a $41,000 2014 Acura MDX was taken from Tawayne Palacol $206,801 in cash came from Tung Wing Ho.
The website has links to confiscated property lists for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, U.S. Attorney’s office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Post Inspection Service and the U.S. Secret Service.
Chumley reports the ATF notification list spans 133 pages, including everything from an M3A1 submachine gun pistol valued at $500 and seized in mid-March in Grimesland, North Carolina, to an Israeli military UZI pistol, valued at $800 and seized April 29 in Yukon, Oklahoma.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has its own 131-page list that showcases seizures such as $7,522 in cash from a couple in Salem, Virginia, on April 17, and $30,000 in cash from a woman in San Diego on March 326.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency have their own lists, too, spanning, in order, 57 pages, 737 pages and 816 pages. And so do the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Secret Service. The list for the former only goes on for 21 pages; for the latter, for 50.
“The travesty about forfeitures is that the government can confiscate almost any item it deems to have been used during the commission of a crime – but in some cases, the crimes haven’t even been fully vetted through court. That means forfeitures can suck up a lot of properties and cash belonging to innocent people,” Chumley explained.
“The system does allow for petitioners to get back properties and cash – but talk about an uphill climb. Having to prove one’s self as innocent of a crime is a tough position to be in – and one that Founding Fathers decried as backward. Unfortunately, trying to reclaim forfeiture property makes a mockery of the American concept of innocent, until proven guilty,” she said.
“On top of that, the means the government does give to try and win back forfeiture properties are convoluted, confusing and riddled with bureaucratic hoops,” Chumley said.
She pointed to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives notification list, which explains that “an owner or lien holder may file a petition for remission or mitigation of the forfeiture with ATF by sending a petition to the [ATF street address], pursuant to Title 19, U.S.C., Section 1618, and the regulations governing the petition process set forth in Title 28, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 9. … In addition to, or in lieu of petitioning for remission or mitigation, a person may contest the forfeiture of the seized property in UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT by filing a claim and cost bond with ATF within 20 days after the last publication date. … Upon the filing of a claim under Title 19, U.S.C., Section 1608 et seq., a cost bond must also be given to the United States in the penal sum of $5,000 or 10 percent of the value of the claimed property, whichever is lower, but not less than $250. … To be timely filed, a claim must be received by ATF on or before the filing deadline date. … Submissions by facsimile or other electronic means will not be accepted.”
She asked how the average American citizen can understand that process
“If the intent of the government is to suggest that citizens who may have been innocently swept up in the forfeiture process ought to just chalk up their properties as gone and forgotten – congratulations. Message received,” she said.
The government site includes a listing for “2 rounds Remington ammunition Cal:22” which was valued at 20 cents. It was seized May 15, 2014, in Lincoln, Alabama.
Taken in Holyoke, Massachusetts, from Javier Gonzales was a 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle valued at more than $44,000,
The FBI took custody of hundreds of Moneygrams worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and $6,000 was confiscated from a backpack in the back seat of a 10-year-old Acura parked in Austin, Texas.
A gold, two-tone, men’s, 8.5 inch, multistrand, diamond- cut bead bracelet was confiscated from a Maryland owner.
Chumley’s “Police State USA: How Orwell’s Nightmare is Becoming Our Reality” has received high praise from Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas.
In the foreword to Chumley’s book, Gohmert writes:
Look at what we know the government already has accessed. Under Obamacare, the federal government now gets complete documentation of your deepest, darkest, most personal secrets in your medical records that only your doctor once knew until the government decided to help you.
Your revelations to your doctor were completely secret, and our courts used to protect that precious doctor-patient relationship with full-blown privacy rights. Now, without a single Republican vote, the Democrats in the House and Senate decided that those full-blown rights should be fully blown up because the omniscient, ubiquitous, all-knowing, all-caring federal government needs to be in full control of our lives.
Those Democrats are hoping that the governmental god in whom they trust will be more trustworthy in controlling our lives than it is in controlling and operating a website,” he said.
The coming signs of tyranny are all around us. Fortunately, they can be stopped before it is too late, but not without a courageous effort. This nation’s founders risked absolutely everything to secure the blessings of freedom. We only risk some belittling by the mainstream and government harassment for preserving those freedoms. Bottom line, the data in Chumley’s book concerns me and it should concern you.
It was August 2012, and he “was taken into custody, thrown in jail, and forcibly transferred to a hospital located nearly three hours from his home and family to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, all at the order of law enforcement officials.”
“His crime? He posted on his private Facebook page messages that painted the government in a poor light.”
Then there was the July 2013 case of a University of Virginia student. She was “swarmed by state Alcoholic Beverage Control agents who thought the carton of bottled water she was carrying across the parking lot of a grocery store was really a 12-pack of beer and she was an underage buyer.”
“She said one drew her gun, another jumped on the hood of her SUV, and still others shouted conflicting orders and flashed badges she couldn’t read. Terrified, she tried to flee in her SUV, but agents halted and arrested her, charging her with two counts of assault.
“Even the commonwealth’s attorney who investigated the incident found the case ridiculous and refused to prosecute. But the 20-year-old still spent a night in jail – for the crime of purchasing water.”
Media wishing to interview author Cheryl Chumley may contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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