Asset Forfeiture

Feds Steal Old Lady's Money Because She Hid It in Her Girdle

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According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), "There is no limit on the amount of money that can be taken out of or brought into the United States." But Victoria Faren, a 78-year-old retiree who lives in Clearwater, Florida, thought there might be. So just to be safe, Faren hid the $40,700 in cash she was carrying with her to the Philippines—money from the recent sale of her home—in her underwear and carry-on bag. When a CBP officer asked how much money she was carrying, she initially said $200, then revised her answer to $1,200 after her daughter, who was traveling with her, mentioned that figure. The inconsistency led to a series of questions and increasingly intrusive searches that turned up more and more money, all of which the government confiscated. Carrying lots of money out of the country is perfectly legal, you see, but failing to report amounts of $10,000 or more is not, and any currency involved in such a violation is subject to forfeiture.

This incident, which occurred last April at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, came to light as a result of a complaint filed on Friday by Barbara McQuade, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. To justify keeping Faren's money, McQuade cites 31 USC 5316, which requires people entering or leaving the country with $10,000 or more in cash to report that fact; 31 USC 5332, which makes it a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, to evade the reporting requirement by concealing money on one's person or in one's luggage; and two other provisions, 31 USC 5317 and 31 USC 5332, that authorize civil forfeiture of such unreported or concealed money. McQuade does not allege that Faren's money came from an illegal source—only that it was used to violate the reporting requirement and the ban on hiding money to avoid the reporting requirement. 

Judging from the narrative laid out in McQuade's complaint, according to which Faren repeatedly assured CBP officers that they had found all of the money before tearfully confessing to the full amount, she was afraid of exactly what happened: that the government would take every dollar it could find. The upside: According to The Detroit News, which reported the story on Friday, McQuade so far has not charged Faren with the concealment that is the basis of the forfeiture. Maybe the government will be satisfied to steal an old lady's savings and stop short of sending her to prison for the crime of keeping her business to herself.

[Thanks to Joseph N. for the tip.]

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  1. How foul and inhuman would you have to be to seize this woman’s life savings on the merest of technicalities, where she violated a reporting rule because she was afraid you were going to do exactly what you did?

    1. she was afraid you were going to do exactly what you did?

      To uh, maintain the climate of fear. Duh.

    2. Ah the beauty of a monopoly on force….

      ….because when you have it, does anything else really matter?

    3. GS-12 through 15.

    4. Look, the woman is still alive, ain’t she?

      1. Right, therefore she should be jumping for joy and happy.

    5. I’m looking for the email address for McQuade, but I have not found it. Anyone know her address?

    6. How foul and inhuman would you have to be

      You just named the 2 highest prerequisites of being a government employee.

    7. It’s highly unlikely they would have taken her money if she hadn’t lied to them about it.

      1. You ever heard of the term ‘civil asset forfeiture’?

        Where property is seized because the police think it may have been involved in a crime and you have to *sue* to prove that it wasn’t?

        Sue – because the *property* is charged with a crime and you have no standing to challenge in a criminal court.

        Sue – meaning no presumption of innocence no legal aid, and certainly no ability to recover the costs of the hearing if you prevail.

        Drive east to west along I-40 with a wad of cash and you’ll most likely get a chance to see it in action.

  2. McQuade does not allege that Faren’s money came from an illegal source?only that it was used to violate the reporting requirement and the ban on hiding money to avoid the reporting requirement.

    You see, once you realize that the money in your account isn’t yours it all becomes very clear.

    The law is the law.

    1. Its amazing the number of laws that exist to punish you for not telling the ‘authorities’ that you’re dong something that’s legal anyway.

      I got caught in this – coming back from Mexico BP found some ammo in my car.

      They arrested me, took the ammo (which wasn’t illegal to have, I was just required to tell them I had it) and took a coupe of picatinny rails and a knock-off EOtech holo-sight – on the grounds that it required ‘permission to *export* munitions’.

  3. “Maybe the government will be satisfied to steal an old lady’s savings and stop short of sending her to prison for the crime of keeping her business to herself.”

    That’s how it’s worked since that monstrosity known as civil forfeiture was birthed out of some drug warrior’s ass a while back.

  4. Something, something, eminent domain?

  5. Ok, my nuts are crying for mercy and it’s only Monday afternoon. This week could be an epic orgy of nut-pummeling if the rate stays constant.

    1. We’ll all be sopranos by Wednesday.

    2. Look! A puppy with a baby!

      http://www.buzzfeed.com/larapa…..ts-the-cut

      D’awwww.

      1. OMG

        That’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!

      2. Thanks. I needed that. Looks like I’m just going to have to stay off Reason for a few days. It’s just too much.

      3. Buzzfeed will not be writing about how the government stole an old ladies life savings.

        It conflicts with their message that all the money has to stay here in the US protecting all the jobs their messiah Obama has created and saved.

        But yeah they have pictures of cute kittens.

  6. Yes, it’s a horrible story and the law should be changed, but has this woman seriously never heard of travelers checks or credit cards? Who the hell carries $40K in cash on vacation except rappers and very foolish pro athletes? It’s not just the government you need to worry about when traveling to other countries…good lord, that kind of money will get you robbed and killed instantly in much of the Third World.

    Also, it wasn’t just the money that got her…it was knowingly lying on official forms, followed by additional lies once she got caught. As soon as she lied on the form, she was screwed. The law itself is probably unjust, but the poor judgment involved is entirely on her.

    1. Who the hell carries $40K in cash on vacation except rappers and very foolish pro athletes?

      78-year-old retirees.

      Also, poor immigrants are rather famous for this. And who can blame them. They came from third-world shithole dictatorships where the government can seize your money at any time.

      Oh wait.

      1. And looking at the picture of the lady at the following link, she’s probably both: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/b…..gle-675094

        My guess is that this lady was planning on buying some land or a retirement condo somewhere back in the Philippines and wanted to keep control of her money because she expected to be shaken down by Filipino customs officers (as usually happens). Our shakedown just got to her first.

        1. [sniffs] So proud of our jackboots. USA! USA!

    2. I can only assume, U, that you believe that the seizure of this woman’s life savings is entirely justified.

      If so, you are just as foul and inhuman as the scum who stole it from her.

      1. The law itself is probably unjust, but the poor judgment involved is entirely on her.

        My only quibble is with his use of “probably,” but yes, one must be cannier than she when dealing with the king’s men.

        1. Or, more accurately, not risk a tremendous amount of cash by knowingly violating a law that will result in the forfeiture of said cash if one is caught.

          One can certainly argue that the law itself is a license for theft by the government (and I agree), but on the other hand, it’s not like the feds in this situation applied the law improperly to how it was written. She knowingly and willfully violated a law with clearly stated penalties and customs applied those penalties as soon as they caught her.

          If you’re going to violate a law you feel is unjust, don’t be stupid enough to get caught so easily.

      2. Actually, no (and you apparently didn’t read my full comment, where I made that point)…just as I don’t assume that people walking through dark alleys at night deserve to be robbed or raped. On the other hand, if you choose to go walking through dark alleys at night, it shouldn’t really be a surprise if you get robbed or raped.

        Likewise, if you decide to carry $40K in cash through the airport and lie on official government forms about the money in violation of a not-obscure federal law, you shouldn’t be surprised that the government is probably going to punish you and take that money (because they can).

        The law itself is wrong. The woman’s still a fucking idiot for knowlingly violating that law and putting herself in a position to lose all of her money.

        1. The woman’s still a fucking idiot for knowlingly violating that law and putting herself in a position to lose all of her money.

          Ahem.

          Judging from the narrative laid out in McQuade’s complaint, according to which Faren repeatedly assured CBP officers that they had found all of the money before tearfully confessing to the full amount, she was afraid of exactly what happened: that the government would take every dollar it could find.

          1. So just to be safe, Faren hid the $40,700 in cash she was carrying with her to the Phillippines?money from the recent sale of her home?in her underwear and carry-on bag. When a CBP officer asked how much money she was carrying, she initially said $200, then revised her answer to $1,200 after her daughter, who was traveling with her, mentioned that figure.

            Try reading the whole story. 🙂

            She tearfully confessed *after* she got caught breaking the law (and after she lied a second time). Again, while the law may be wrong, a Customs officer would have to be an absolute idiot to take anyone’s story at face value after that person has been caught lying to them twice.

            1. She tearfully confessed *after* she got caught breaking the law

              “The bitch was asking for it, dressing like that.”

              Let me say this more slower for you:

              she was afraid of exactly what happened: that the government would take every dollar it could find.

              1. she was afraid of exactly what happened: that the government would take every dollar it could find

                And so she behaved in a manner that ensured that the government would take every dollar it could find…while carrying a tremendous amount of money with her.

                It may be an unjust law, but if you’re going to fight an unjust law, be smarter about what you risk.

        2. BTW, your post is Bo-level pedantry. Congrats. That takes effort.

          It’s her fucking right to do whatever she wants with that cash, up to and including throwing into the money fires. She’s being punished for her failure to bow and scrape.

          1. It’s her fucking right to do whatever she wants with that cash

            It’s a woman’s right to walk through a dark alley at midnight too…that doesn’t change that it’s a stupid idea, because muggers don’t care about her rights.

            You’re talking about the unjustness of the law, I’m talking about foolish personal choices.

            1. I’m talking about foolish personal choices.

              No, you’re being a pedantic cunt.

              1. I’m sorry that my comments make you feel like a small child.

          2. BTW, your post is Bo-level pedantry. Congrats. That takes effort.

            If you feel that people are talking down to you, perhaps you should make smarter arguments. In this case, by recognizing that you’re not talking about the same thing that I am.

            1. Let me spell it out for you, since your comprehension skills seem to *cough* lacking:

              1. An old woman gets robbed by government of what is, ostensibly, her life’s savings.
              2. They did so, for her failure to fill out the appropriate form.
              3. She did that for precisely the reason of the ultimate outcome that came of it, either by our govt or the Filipino govt.
              5. In case you didn’t get that, SHE WAS RIGHT.
              6. Your entire contribution to this sordid affair can be summed up as “Hah! Bitch got what she deserved!”

              Yes, your intellect is dazzling. We should all be terrified.

              1. I’m not casting my lot in with UC here, but the part where
                1.she didn’t fill out the form,
                2.for the precise reason of the ultimate outcome,
                3.which was if she didn’t fill out the form they could confiscate…

                There is some failure of logic in this construction.
                (note: I totally feel for the woman and am disgusted by this law.)

                1. Dr. Awkward…actually, you’re stating the only argument I was making. I didn’t make any comment about the law being just (because it’s not), only that she made a series of blindingly poor choices in breaking that law.

                  JW is only taking umbrage because he’s pissed that he can’t find someone willing to accept his straw man premise.

              2. Actually, she didn’t fill out a legally-required form that carried a punishment of forfeiture, lied to the Customs agent, got caught lying to them, lied again to them, got caught lying again to them, then got her money seized because the agents had no idea what story to believe and so they followed the law.

                If you have trouble understanding a story that simple, perhaps the issue isn’t that I’m brilliant but that you’re slow.

                1. You’ll find that H+R isn’t big on the whole nuanced argumentation thing.

                  1. You’ll find that H+R isn’t big on the whole nuanced argumentation thing.

                    Tulpa, you make blatantly statist, authority worshiping statements, back them up with meaningless bullshit and then complain that we aren’t smart enough to understand your nuanced brilliance. You then agree with yourself using a sockpuppet.

                    You are a dishonest, contemptuous fucking weasel who gets treated like shit for being a piece of shit.

              3. JW…incidentallty, the only person who has referred to the woman in the story as a “bitch” is you. Just as you are the only person calling other people “cunts”.

                Perhaps you should go into counseling about your obvious anger management and misogyny issues. Clearly you have deep-seated issues with both rage and women. It probably has to do with that inferiority complex you display when accusing multiple people of “pendantry”.

                Life’s too short to be that miserable about yourself.

          3. up to and including throwing into the money fires.

            It appears that the government will now take care of this part for her.

    3. In the local reporting on this story it said that she originally wired some money, but decided she didn’t trust the process.
      She thought the form said it was illegal to move money, not just that it had to be reported.
      Whatever happened, she’s screwed, and McQuade, who I otherwise had some respect for, is being a jerk.
      The right thing to do would have been to scare the shit out of her and send her on her way *with the money*. It is, indeed against the law (and you have to check that box every time you enter the country.) But prosecutors have discretion, and Ms McQuade should have used some.

      1. I agree that in this situation, the money should be refunded since there’s no evidence of criminal wrongdoing besides the failure to report.

        That said, the government these days isn’t about returning money if they believe their interpretation of the law is technically correct. So she’s probably screwed.

    4. You are a scumbag, and even worse, probably a lawyer.

      1. And you named yourself after a cult leader with an out-of-control god complex and an unseemly addiction to amphetamines.

        Your point?

        1. Ayn Rand was a tweaker? You’re shitting me.

          I’d never heard that before.

    5. “…that kind of money will get you robbed and killed instantly in much of the Third World the United States.

      1. Another reason for travelers checks and wire transfers rather than cash.

        1. Well, traveller’s checks would have gotten her just as busted.

          1. How? The law only refers to cash, doesn’t it?

            1. Any ‘financial instruments’

              Cash/currency, a fucking money order or bank draft, bonds – anything that can be remotely considered ‘money’ will trigger this.

              1. Odd…I thought it was simply cash itself that was the issue.

          2. By which I mean actual currency.

  7. It’s the price we pay for civilization.

    1. All elderly travelers should be made to sign a declaration of economic patriotism before boarding international flights.

      1. +1 Armband

  8. Sometimes man you jsut have to roll with the punches.

    http://www.AnonGalaxy.tk

  9. Right to Privacy.

    I dont even think you need penumbras to get that far.

    Lets see if all the pro-choice women support her.

    1. She was stealing from the collective.

      Chop her hands off as a warning to others with similar temerity.

  10. Freedom means asking permission and obeying orders.

  11. and two other provisions, 31 USC 5317 and 31 USC 5332, that authorize civil forfeiture of such unreported or concealed money.

    No flerking way is that constitutional. Civil forfeiture in drug and similar cases is based on the possibility that the assets were obtained illegally. As the mental gymnastics go, the money is being punished, not the person, and money doesn’t have any constitutional rights.

    In this case, the confiscation is simply a straight-up punishment of the person for committing an illegal act. I don’t see how the same exception can be used to back up the government’s claims.

  12. Poor lady. Thankfully future generations will have Bitcoin, or some other equivalent, to protect them against this kind of theft.

    1. They’re already on the look out for people smuggling undeclared bitcoins.

      http://dailyanarchist.com/2014…..r-bitcoin/

      1. How can you smuggle something that is on the Internet on a globally disturbed ledger?

        I am not even sure one can say it was in the US to begin with.

        1. That’s OK, that doesn’t matter anymore.

          https://reason.com/blog/2014/08…..y-order-to

  13. Feel sorry for the woman, and of course, I think drugs should be legal, but color me skeptical that she was carrying that $40K out of the country, without disclosing it, for entirely legal purposes.

    A 78-year-old woman from the Philippines could easily have connections dating back 30-40 years. My bet is that her girdle was going to be stuffed with something else on the way back.

    1. So, pre-emptive law enforcement then?

      1. HazelMeade has some pretty questionable views.

        Such as forcing everyone in the country to buy a product. But, don’t you worry, that’s totally libertarian because NOZICK!!!!11!1!1!111!!111

  14. Apparently, if the choice is between stupid liars and the State, it’s a libertarian position to defend stupid liars no matter how stupid and dishonest they are.

    Y’all are just as myopic and disengenous as Team RED and Team BLUE.

    1. Stupid liars whose only offense is stupidly lying. Yes, we back them over the state. The state which confiscated her money out of spite.

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