To Serve and Steal – How the Police and the FBI Can Take Your Stuff Without Ever Charging You with a Crime
Where do you go – when the people you’re supposed to go to when you get robbed – robs you? This is what happened to the driver of an armored car carrying $712,000 in cash from licensed dispensaries in California. The San Bernardino County Sheriff pulled the driver over on a Mojave Desert freeway, interrogated him and then seized the money, which they later turned over to the FBI. This according to an article in the LA Times.
A few weeks later the driver was stopped again and yet another $350,000 was seized by the cops. Once more, this money belonged to licensed cannabis dispensaries. According to the FBI, this money is tied to federal drug or money-laundering crimes but have not clarified specifically the “unlawful conduct” and no one was charged with a crime. If the FBI is successful in “confiscating the money”, they would share their spoils with the San Bernardino Police Department.
Apparently, this isn’t the first time that the federal law enforcement agencies in SoCal have been abusing forfeiture laws by seizing cash and valuables from people with zero evidence of anyone committing a crime. All of this behavior has led some people to question the Biden administration’s involvement – whether this aggressive stance from the FBI is a low-key measure to hinder the cannabis industry. In a previous Beverly Hills raid, the FBI confiscated more than $80 million dollars in cash and goods, but were later forced to return it when they failed to produce any evidence of wrong doing.
In other words, it seems that these federal agents are utilizing asset forfeiture laws – which indicate that property can be seized in an active criminal investigations, even when the owner of thus said property had nothing to do with the crime. For example, let’s say someone happened to do a drug deal on your property without your knowledge. Technically speaking, the government would have a right to seize your house because a federal crime was committed on the property. Even though you had nothing to do with the crime itself, your property is now “guilty” of criminal involvement and under asset forfeiture laws; they have the legal authority to take your goods.
The company who’s trucks are being targeted – Empyreal Logistics – is requesting an emergency order to force the FBI and the Sheriff’s Department to stop pulling over it’s vehicles and seizing cash without evidence of illegal activity. Judge John W. Holcomb of U.S. District Court in Riverside will be dealing with that. The company is also attempting to retrieve the money that was legally stolen from them. According to the company, they are following all of the legal protocols and ensure that all of the dealings are with legitimate businesses. The company’s lawyer, Dan Alban said, “This is among the more egregious forfeiture cases that we’ve ever seen” and called the seizures a “very cynical attempt to exploit the differences between federal and state law” on marijuana.
When you take a look at the law suit the company filed, there’s a lot more deviousness to this story than you could imagine.
In the lawsuit itself, it calls the seizures by it’s accurate name – “highway robberies”. It also accuses the Sheriff’s department of violating California Law that protects the financial institutions that are serving cannabis dispensaries. The company also asserts that seven out of the eight dispensaries whose cash was taken were in fact licensed.
The cops deny that they violated any laws and say that rather Empyreal is trying to impede an active criminal investigation by seeking a court injunction. According to the Sheriff’s department, “80% of the cannabis sold in the area came from illegal funds and the money seized were of black market origin”. Yet there was no evidence to back these claims.
Furthermore, the company has audio recordings of the police counting out money, talking about previous seizures as if it was a competition between who could seize the most in a single setting, an additional recording of a DEA agent instructing law enforcement officers to “crush” every Empyreal vehicle they can identify.
All of this sounds pretty damning and as of yet, there has not been a resolution. You may be sitting there and reading this article thinking, “how could this be legal?” After all, if this type of activity was conducted by any other entity other than law enforcement – this would be straight up criminal. In fact, it almost resembles mob tactics.
The question is; how much does the federal government know of this or is this a regional matter? Are they specifically targeting this one company or is there a larger operation afoot? As of now, none of the law enforcement agency has presented any real evidence to support their claim. It seems we need to blindly “trust them” from not being corrupt and bending laws to suit their personal financial gains.
If all of this isn’t sitting too well with you be of good faith, that means you’re human. These archaic drug laws have been used for far too long to exploit the legal system and to legally steal goods from people who in many cases have no ties to crime whatsoever. While we might see people be highly vocal on many issues on social media, the legal theft of American Goods by the federal government and local law enforcement is something I’d like politicians to talk about. Real things that affect real people.
Where do you go to when the people who’s supposed to enforce the law are bending it to their own needs? It seems that there’s something shady happening in the Mojave desert…and it smells like bacon.