(RepublicanInformer.com)- Back in March, agents from both the FBI and DEA served a warrant on a safe deposit box business US Private Vaults in Beverly Hills. The Feds alleged that US Private Vaults conspired with its customers to sell drugs, launder money, and then hide the ill-gotten proceeds in safe deposit boxes.
Problem is, the warrant had very specific limitations – namely, no contents could be removed from the premises unless the FBI could confirm that the contents in question were illegal.
But that isn’t what the agents did. Instead, they began opening boxes, and seizing the contents of over 800 safe deposit box – confiscating about $86 million worth of cash, jewelry, rare coins and precious metals.
Now, the owners of those 800 boxes weren’t all involved in the drug trade or money laundering. But that didn’t seem to matter to the Feds.
Recently, the Los Angeles Times reported on one of the innocent people whose savings was confiscated in this raid – an unemployed chef named Joseph Ruiz. Ruiz kept about $57,000 in his safe deposit box. And the Feds took it all.
Ruiz went to court to retrieve the money, and the judge ordered the Feds to explain why they confiscated his savings. According to court papers, an FBI agent claimed that the money in Ruiz’s safe deposit box was from drug trafficking because a drug dog has smelled drugs on Ruiz’s cash.
Really? That’s it? Ninety percent of all US currency in circulation has traces of cocaine on it. They stole this man’s life savings over that?
The FBI also claimed that Ruiz’s income is too low to justify his having that much money in a safe deposit box. They claimed that because Ruiz has a side business selling bongs made of liquor bottles, he must be an unlicensed marijuana dealer.
Well, it turns out the FBI’s assumptions about Ruiz were flat-out wrong. Ruiz was able to produce records showing the money was legitimate, and the FBI was forced to return his money.
But Joseph Ruiz is just one of the 800 innocent box owners whose possessions were confiscated in that March 22 raid. And six months later, the US attorney’s office in Los Angeles still hasn’t been able to prove criminal wrongdoing by the majority of them. Three hundred other box holders are contesting the confiscation and 65 others have filed documents in court arguing that the government’s seizure was unconstitutional.
Read the Los Angeles Times report HERE.