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This story is almost unbelievable, but unfortunately it is very real. The FBI suspected a safe deposit box company named U.S. Private Vaults was participating in money laundering. The feds gained a search warrant with very specific limitations (which they abruptly violated), to look at the legal contents of some boxes. However, the judge said no content could be removed unless the FBI specifically could prove the content was illegal. The feds ignored the search warrant parameters and just started busting open the boxes, confiscating $86 million in cash, jewelry, rare coins and precious metals. When the owners went to court the FBI said the contents smelled like marijuana – ergo the owners had to prove how they came into legal possession of the items. The issues are not resolved, but at least a few judges are rightly looking at this as a clear violation of the 4th amendment…..
( Los Angeles Times ) – […] Ruiz is one of roughly 800 people whose money and valuables the FBI seized from safe deposit boxes they rented at the U.S. Private Vaults store in a strip mall on Olympic Boulevard.
Federal agents had suspected for years that criminals were stashing loot there, and they assert that’s exactly what they found. The government is trying to confiscate $86 million in cash and a stockpile of jewelry, rare coins and precious metals taken from about half of the boxes.
But six months after the raid, the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles have produced no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the vast majority of box holders whose belongings the government is trying to keep.
About 300 of the box holders are contesting the attempted confiscation. Ruiz and 65 others have filed court claims saying the dragnet forfeiture operation is unconstitutional.
[…] In preliminary rulings, U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner blocked the government’s forfeiture cases against Ruiz and three others, saying the lack of any “specific factual and legal basis” violated their rights to due process. ( read more )
The FBI is an out of […]
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