U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner, a George W. Bush appointee issued a temporary retraining order preventing the federal government from seizing safe deposit boxes from four individuals who are seeking the return of their assets until the feds can provide the “specific factual and legal basis” for trying to initiate civil forfeiture.
The judge scolded the feds and said the planned forfeiture likely violates the individuals constitutional due process rights.
Just the News reported:
U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing the feds from initiating civil forfeiture against four individuals who sought return of their valuables until prosecutors provide the “specific factual and legal basis” for the action.
He gave the government until Tuesday to explain why the judge should not issue a preliminary injunction, which would halt planned forfeitures until the merits of the case were decided — a process that could take months.
It’s a black eye for the feds, who claimed USPV intentionally lured criminal activity and that its customers were an undifferentiated mass of drug dealers and money launderers. The government did not charge any customers with crimes, however, as it seized their belongings.
The feds seized $85 million in cash, precious metals and family heirlooms stored in about 800 safe deposit boxes in Los Angeles.
A class-action lawsuit claimed the FBI “exceeded the search warrant approved by the court” when it raided storage provider, US Private Vaults (USPV) and snooped through the contents of the safe deposit boxes.
USPV was indicted by the feds for conspiracy to sell drugs and launder money, however the owners of the boxes are not accused of committing any crimes.
The search warrant only authorized the FBI to inspect the safe deposit boxes to “identify their owners in order to notify them” about claiming their property.
This is the “most outrageous Fourth Amendment abuse that the Institute for Justice has ever seen,” Frommer, the IJ attorney, said when it announced the case. “It is like the government breaking into every apartment in a building because the landlord was dealing drugs in the lobby.”