Chalk up yet another victory for the civil forfeiture fighters at the Institute for Justice (IJ). Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney for eastern New York and President Barack Obama's nominee to replace Attorney General Eric Holder, has agreed to return $447,000 seized from a Long Island business IJ had been representing.
Bi-County Distributors, a small, family-owned business that distributes snack foods to convenience stores, drew the federal government's attention and had their bank account raided all because of suspicions about their cash deposits. The federal government requires banks to report cash deposits of greater than $10,000 and has outlawed purposefully breaking down deposits in order to avoid reporting requirements. But small businesses like local distributors and family restaurants typically deal in cash and need to make frequent deposits for obvious safety reasons.
The brothers who run Bi-County Distributors had never been charged with a crime. Yet, the government kept the money for two and a half years. IJ came to help represent the family in October of last year. That means it took them less than three months to get the feds to see sense. Of course, an upcoming attorney general nomination process and senators looking to reform the civil asset forfeiture process probably played a role as well.
Read more about this case from the Institute for Justice here. Jacob Sullum wrote about a similar civil seizure case involving a restaurant in Iowa. The Institute for Justice defended that family as well and got the feds to back down.