Los Angeles, CA — For decades now, the federal government and their cohorts in law enforcement have been carrying out the theft of the citizenry on a massive scale using Civil Asset Forfeiture (CAF).
The 1980s-era laws were designed to drain resources from powerful criminal organizations, but CAF has become a tool for law enforcement agencies across the U.S. to steal money and property from countless innocent people.
As the following case out of Beverly Hills illustrates, no criminal charge is required for this confiscation, resulting in easy inflows of cash for law enforcement departments and the proliferation of abuse. This phenomenon is known as “policing for profit” and the latest example is exceedingly egregious.
A year after we originally reported this story, we are finding out just how egregious it actually was with the release of newly unsealed court documents. According to the documents, the FBI misled the judge who approved the warrant and used this bogus warrant to steal from and violate the rights of hundreds of innocent people.
Using bogus excuses, the FBI raided roughly 1,400 safety deposit boxes at a single location in Beverly Hills. They made random and apparently unsubstantiated accusations that the U.S. Private Vaults location in Beverly Hills was aiding criminal activity. The business was indicted in Feb. 2020 on claims that it marketed itself to criminals to help them launder money and dodge government detection.
But no one was ever charged and the claims were bogus. Now, taxpayers will likely be held liable as there is a massive lawsuit filed on behalf of the victims whose rights were trampled and many of whom have never gotten back their property.
As the Institute for Justice writes:
When FBI officials marched into US Private Vaults in March 2021, they executed their plan. And to gather more evidence to support their forfeiture efforts, those same FBI officials ignored the seizure warrant’s command that it “does not authorize a criminal search or seizure of the contents of the safety deposit boxes.” Under the warrant, agents were only supposed to “inspect the contents of the boxes”—not to search for potential violations of law, but simply to “identify their owners in order to notify them so that they can claim their property.”
But despite its promises to the court, the FBI created custom forms that asked agents to look for information the government could use in pursuing forfeitures. One document, for instance, asked agents to “note things such as how the cash is bundled,” “if it has a strong odor,” or “if there appears to be drug residue.” Another instructed that cash over $5,000 should be sniffed by a “canine unit,” and, in fact, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service arranged for numerous drug dogs to be on site. The government agreed that it gathered this evidence because it “could be probative later on” in showing that the government could forfeit that money or other property.
Under the warrant’s terms, agents should have stopped when they encountered letters taped to the top of closed boxes that identified the box’s renter and beneficiaries. Yet invariably agents pored through each box, capturing photographic and video records of renters’ password lists, wills, personal notes and other sensitive documents. Now, the FBI and other agencies have copies of these records in their evidentiary databases, where renters’ private, personal information will remain for agents to access and analyze.
In May 2021, the government carried out its plan to commence administrative forfeiture proceedings against hundreds of boxes containing over $80 million in cash and tens of millions more in gold, silver, jewelry and other valuables.
“For months the FBI held onto our precious metals and treated me and my husband like criminals. If we had not fought back, we could have lost a significant part of our life savings forever,” said Jeni Pearsons, one of the plaintiffs in the suit. “Our lawsuit can’t turn the clock back and keep our rights from being violated, but we want to make sure the government never does this to anyone else and doesn’t hold onto the records and photos of our private possessions.”
The FBI confiscated, or rather, robbed people like Joseph Ruiz as well — stealing his entire life savings.
The FBI falsely claimed that Ruiz, who is a chef, made the $57,000 they stole from him from drug dealing because a drug dog alerted to the presence of drugs on the cash.
It is widely known that a large percentage (upwards 0f 90%) of U.S. paper money contains trace amounts of cocaine. Having a large amount of cash will most assuredly alert a drug dog.
Read More: “Largest Armed Robbery in History”: FBI Robs 1400 Safety Deposit Boxes
Weaponizing the Bureaucracy: Who Will Protect Us from the Government’s Standing Army?
By John W. Whitehead and Nisha Whitehead
“A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty.”—James Madison
The IRS has stockpiled 4,500 guns and five million rounds of ammunition in recent years, including 621 shotguns, 539 long-barrel rifles and 15 submachine guns.
The Veterans Administration (VA) purchased 11 million rounds of ammunition (equivalent to 2,800 rounds for each of their officers), along with camouflage uniforms, riot helmets and shields, specialized image enhancement devices and tactical lighting.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) acquired 4 million rounds of ammunition, in addition to 1,300 guns, including five submachine guns and 189 automatic firearms for its Office of Inspector General.
According to an in-depth report on “The Militarization of the U.S. Executive Agencies,” the Social Security Administration secured 800,000 rounds of ammunition for their special agents, as well as armor and guns.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) owns 600 guns. And the Smithsonian now employs 620-armed “special agents.”
This is how it begins.
We have what the founders feared most: a “standing” or permanent army on American soil.
This de facto standing army is made up of weaponized, militarized, civilian forces which look like, dress like, and act like the military; are armed with guns, ammunition and military-style equipment; are authorized to make arrests; and are trained in military tactics.
Mind you, this de facto standing army of bureaucratic, administrative, non-military, paper-pushing, non-traditional law enforcement agencies may look and act like the military, but they are not the military.
Rather, they are foot soldiers of the police state’s standing army, and they are growing in number at an alarming rate.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the number of federal agents armed with guns, ammunition and military-style equipment, authorized to make arrests, and trained in military tactics has nearly tripled over the past several decades.
There are now more bureaucratic (non-military) government agents armed with weapons than U.S. Marines. As Adam Andrzejewski writes for Forbes, “the federal government has become one never-ending gun show.”
While Americans have to jump through an increasing number of hoops in order to own a gun, federal agencies have been placing orders for hundreds of millions of rounds of hollow point bullets and military gear. Among the agencies being supplied with night-vision equipment, body armor, hollow-point bullets, shotguns, drones, assault rifles and LP gas cannons are the Smithsonian, U.S. Mint, Health and Human Services, IRS, FDA, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Education Department, Energy Department, Bureau of Engraving and Printing and an assortment of public universities.
Add in the Biden Administration’s plans to grow the nation’s police forces by 100,000 more cops and swell the ranks of the IRS by 87,000 new employees (some of whom will have arrest-and-firearm authority) and you’ve got a nation in the throes of martial law.
Activist Post Recommended Book — Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces
The militarization of America’s police forces in recent decades has merely sped up the timeline by which the nation is transformed into an authoritarian regime.
What began with the militarization of the police in the 1980s during the government’s war on drugs has snowballed into a full-fledged integration of military weaponry, technology and tactics into police protocol. To our detriment, local police—clad in jackboots, helmets and shields and wielding batons, pepper-spray, stun guns, and assault rifles—have increasingly come to resemble occupying forces in our communities.
As Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz report, more than $34 billion in federal government grants made available to local police agencies in the wake of 9/11 “ha[ve] fueled a rapid, broad transformation of police operations… across the country. More than ever before, police rely on quasi-military tactics and equipment… [P]olice departments around the U.S. have transformed into small army-like forces.”
This standing army has been imposed on the American people in clear violation of the spirit—if not the letter of the law—of the Posse Comitatus Act, which restricts the government’s ability to use the U.S. military as a police force.
A standing army—something that propelled the early colonists into revolution—strips the American people of any vestige of freedom.
It was for this reason that those who established America vested control of the military in a civilian government, with a civilian commander-in-chief. They did not want a military government, ruled by force.
Rather, they opted for a republic bound by the rule of law: the U.S. Constitution.
Unfortunately, with the Constitution under constant attack, the military’s power, influence and authority have grown dramatically. Even the Posse Comitatus Act, which makes it a crime for the government to use the military to carry out arrests, searches, seizure of evidence and other activities normally handled by a civilian police force, has been greatly weakened by exemptions allowing troops to deploy domestically and arrest civilians in the wake of alleged terrorist acts.
The increasing militarization of the police, the use of sophisticated weaponry against Americans and the government’s increasing tendency to employ military personnel domestically have all but eviscerated historic prohibitions such as the Posse Comitatus Act.
Indeed, there are a growing number of exceptions to which Posse Comitatus does not apply. These exceptions serve to further acclimate the nation to the sight and sounds of military personnel on American soil and the imposition of martial law.
Now we find ourselves struggling to retain some semblance of freedom in the face of administrative, police and law enforcement agencies that look and act like the military with little to no regard for the Fourth Amendment, laws such as the NDAA that allow the military to arrest and indefinitely detain American citizens, and military drills that acclimate the American people to the sight of armored tanks in the streets, military encampments in cities, and combat aircraft patrolling overhead.
The menace of a national police force—a.k.a. a standing army—vested with the power to completely disregard the Constitution, cannot be overstated, nor can its danger be ignored.
Historically, the establishment of a national police force accelerates a nation’s transformation into a police state, serving as the fundamental and final building block for every totalitarian regime that has ever wreaked havoc on humanity.
Then again, for all intents and perhaps, the American police state is already governed by martial law: Battlefield tactics. Militarized police. Riot and camouflage gear. Armored vehicles. Mass arrests. Pepper spray. Tear gas. Batons. Strip searches. Drones. Less-than-lethal weapons unleashed with deadly force. Rubber bullets. Water cannons. Concussion grenades. Intimidation tactics. Brute force. Laws conveniently discarded when it suits the government’s purpose.
This is what martial law looks like, when a government disregards constitutional freedoms and imposes its will through military force, only this is martial law without any government body having to declare it.
The ease with which Americans are prepared to welcome boots on the ground, regional lockdowns, routine invasions of their privacy, and the dismantling of every constitutional right intended to serve as a bulwark against government abuses is beyond unnerving.
We are sliding fast down a slippery slope to a Constitution-free America.
This quasi-state of martial law has been helped along by government policies and court rulings that have made it easier for the police to shoot unarmed citizens, for law enforcement agencies to seize cash and other valuable private property under the guise of asset forfeiture, for military weapons and tactics to be deployed on American soil, for government agencies to carry out round-the-clock surveillance, for legislatures to render otherwise lawful activities as extremist if they appear to be anti-government, for profit-driven private prisons to lock up greater numbers of Americans, for homes to be raided and searched under the pretext of national security, for American citizens to be labeled terrorists and stripped of their rights merely on the say-so of a government bureaucrat, and for pre-crime tactics to be adopted nationwide that strip Americans of the right to be assumed innocent until proven guilty and creates a suspect society in which we are all guilty until proven otherwise.
All of these assaults on the constitutional framework of the nation have been sold to the public as necessary for national security.
Time and again, the public has fallen for the ploy hook, line and sinker.
We’re being reeled in, folks, and you know what happens when we get to the end of that line?
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we’ll be cleaned, gutted and strung up.
ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD
Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.
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