Civil Asset Forfeiture

DEA Steals $44,000 From Nail Salon Owner at JFK

Vu Do says he never committed a drug offense, but he did miss a deadline.


On February 19, armed robbers who work for the U.S. government stole $44,000 in cash from Vu Do as he was about to board a flight at JFK Airport. Do, who owns two nail salons in New York City, planned to loan the money, which he had saved over the course of 20 years, to two brothers in California who had recently suffered financial setbacks. Instead, reports Techdirt's Tim Cushing, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seized the cash, supposedly "because the property was used or acquired as a result of a violation of the Controlled Substances Act." The seizure notice, which the DEA mailed to Do on March 26, does not say what the violation was or what evidence indicated that Do had broken the law or planned to do so. According to a complaint that Do filed in federal court on June 17, he has never used, bought, or sold illegal drugs and has "never violated the Controlled Substances Act." 

But as the Heritage Foundation's Jason Snead explains, none of that matters under federal law. To challenge the forfeiture, Do either had to file a petition with the DEA no later than 30 days after receiving the seizure notice or file a claim in federal court by April 30 (35 days after the notice was mailed). Since he missed both of those deadlines, whether because he did not know about them or had trouble finding a lawyer willing to represent him, he does not seem to have any recourse. "In federal forfeiture law," Snead writes, "there is no grace period for property owners." If a seizure is not challenged in time, the result is an "administrative forfeiture," or confiscation by default. Snead notes that "the vast majority of federal forfeiture cases end as administrative forfeitures, never making it to court."

That's not surprising, since the process for challenging forfeitures is complicated and expensive, often costing more than the seized property is worth. No doubt the DEA thinks the failure to contest a seizure is tantamount to an admission of guilt. But the DEA also thinks only criminals carry large amounts of cash—something that remains perfectly legal, although foolhardy in light of cases like this one.

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  1. Motherfucker got what he deserved. Thinkin he could do drug transactions and the heroes in blue wouldn’t catch him. Whatcha gonna do when they come for you!?!?

    1. Just happy all the heroes involved in the forfeiture went home safe!!

    2. your satire is so blunt it hurts to read it.

      1. Thank you. Thank you very much.

  2. armed robbers who work for the U.S. government

    Now those are some unminced words.

    The government steals your property and then if you don’t jump through their byzantine flaming-hoop-maze before the timer runs out, you “lose by default”. It’s Kafkaesque.

    This is tyrrany.

    1. This guy or his parents probably emigrated here to escape some shit-hole dictatorship that doesn’t have rule of law.

    2. Poor chump probably thought he escaped a Communist country by coming here.

      More the fool he.

  3. Part and parcel of this:

    Our forefathers rebelled over taxes that amounted to pennies per item, and two centuries later we fork over 40 percent of our income and call it “fair.” The excise taxes and import duties that financed Washington for more than a century were not sustainable. A new tax system was needed. But in the century that followed its adoption, it changed the American people themselves.
    Americans today are taxed at levels most of our forebears would have considered unthinkable. By our own nation’s historical standards, we are outrageously, insanely overtaxed. And yet we shrug our shoulders and say, well, at least we’re not France.
    By the way, France’s top marginal tax rate is 40 percent. President Obama plans to raise our top marginal rate to 39 percent.
    Read more at…

    Incidentally, they rebelled because of the lawlessness of His Majesty’s quartered troops in America – one reason we have the fourth amendment.

    What will it take, people?

    1. Our forefathers rebelled over taxes that amounted to pennies per item, and two centuries later we fork over 40 percent of our income and call it “fair.”

      Thank you. This cannot be said enough. Yet we continue to celebrate the 4th of July.

      1. But…but…that was before there were roads.

      2. Yet we continue to celebrate the 4th of July.

        We should rather celebrate by firing rockets into the halls of Congress and the various unconstitutional agencies around DC.

        1. Careful, that is the kind of comment that got my account information subpoenaed.

        2. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I mean we all know you were just kidding. Right?

      3. The 4th of July has morphed into just another Veterans’ Day. No one talks about the foundation of freedom from tyranny anymore. It’s simply another blowjob for the living veterans, and (perhaps unpopular here) a bowing down before the Welfare/Warfare State. And while I’m sure there were some very heroic actions by many veterans, the mopes in their size 48 pants wheezing their way down the street in the parade typically doesn’t elicit respect from me.

        In short, it seems every holiday is being twisted into another bob-and-kneel for veterans. Pretty soon, MLK day will be to honor black veterans.

        1. The Fourth this year was really hard my Dude and me this year, more than last year. I didn’t even bother to break out INDEPENDENCE DAY or watch the Boston Pops. We did go to a local fireworks display, but we looked up at the rockets’ red glare” and said, “We are so fucked.” Then, we being we, we said, “How do we fix it?”

          The 12yo Female Tax Deduction was the only one who had any fun, flirting-via-anime with the kid whose family parked next to us. That, it seems, goes on unchanged generation to generation.

          1. Fuck me. Two typos. Maybe more. Shoulda used preview.

        2. No, MLK day will honor black slave owners.

    2. “What will it take, people?”

      What it always takes. Hunger.

      1. That sounds about right to me. You’re not getting a revolution when everyone’s got broadband internet and $1 McDoubles.

        1. And free healthcare.

        2. $1 McDoubles!!! Where? I’m on my way. What more do we really need?

    3. The anti-quartering is the 3rd amendment.

    4. The top marginal tax on earned income is much higher than 39% in many cases. Consider, for example, a 62 year-old, married, self-employed consultant with “unearned” income of $62,920 (pension, IRA distribution, interest, etc.) and Schedule C consulting income of $150K. His marginal tax rate is about 49% including his self-employment taxes.

      The really crazy thing about marginal rates, though, is what happens to that guy’s taxes on the first dollar of consulting income. The marginal rate is approximately 877,500% because his first dollar of Schedule C consulting income causes him to lose his ACA subsidy.

      1. I didn’t know that. Some tax code provision that says you don’t qualify for insurance rebates or reductions unless none of your income is from self-employment? Better incorporate, then!

    5. After taxes, we make & keep a lot more than our forefathers did. It’s not the percentage that bothers people, it’s their std. of living.

  4. If it couldn’t do the time that money shouldn’t have done the crime. The question I have is, its new possessors now also have money whose origins were in the drug trade, so who will confiscate from the confiscators?

    1. If you launder it through a bureaucrat’s account, it’s no longer dirty.

  5. I have nothing left to say on this issue that hasn’t already been said by myself and others already on past stories. They’ve basically given themselves permission to take large sums of cash any where they find it regardless of whether there is even the slightest bit of evidence of illegal activity or not.

    Reading these stories is almost enough to make a man go out and buy a wood chipper…

    1. When woodchippers are outlawed, only the criminals will have…

    2. “No Jean, no money!”


      1. “Yaahhh.”

    3. Cash is in and of itself evidence of nefarious intent – if you weren’t up to no good you would keep your money in the form of bits and bytes like everybody else. It is entirely coincidental that the government has access to all the computers your bits and bytes are stored on the way it doesn’t have access to your wallet. Totally unrelated that Uncle Sam doesn’t even have to go find you anytime it decides some act of l?se-majest? on your part deserves a fat funds forfeiture if all your funds are electronic. Nope, no connection at all between the all-pervasive state and the push to get everybody to put their lives in an easily-searchable database where, with the click of a mouse, your life can disappear down the memory hole.

  6. Moot process at work.

  7. I assure you, Mrs. Buttle, the Ministry is very scrupulous about following up and eradicating any error. If you have any complaints which you’d like to make, I’d be more than happy to send you the appropriate forms.

    1. Thank you for that, SW. I was approximately as gloomy as ASW, Monty, and others seem to be this morning, and your reference to the dystopic movie Brazil helped shift me back into a cynical insouciant mental state.

      Oh, and +1 catatonic state

  8. Surely if Comrade Obama knew of this, he would put a stop to it!

  9. *&$&*^@#%%!*&^!!!!

  10. 30 days to appeal? The feds can’t write a freakin’ memo that quickly!

    1. Seriously, is that written in law, or is that just some regulation they promulgated to implement the law? That is just insane.

      And I love thus adherence to rules when it benefits the state. When a deadline hurts the state, nah, not so much.

      1. See also: ballot deadlines, budget deadlines

      2. See also: Right to speedy trial while you are a guest at Riker’s

    2. Ha! When they shut down my small business for regulation violations, I had 20 days to appeal!

      1. From the date on the notice!

    3. Seriously, the Dept. Veterans Affairs took more than six weeks to answer an inquiry my congressman made about some existing rule for providing grave markers. And said congressman is actually on the House Veterans Affairs sub committee!

  11. Self-awareness is the ability to look inward and understand your emotions.

    When I look inward after stories like these, it gets dark enough in there to scare me a little.

  12. Since asset forfeiture is not going anywhere for the foreseeable future, a state appointed attorney ought to be mandatory for the property owner item in question.

  13. If I was Vo Du, I’d be investing in a woodchipper…

  14. C’mon guys, he probably operated his nail salons without a license and besides as a foreigner he was stealing jobs from Americans. What comes around goes around as they say.

  15. Surely his senator, Chuck Schumer, is all over this!

    1. Not as sexy as butt-chugging an energy drink or whatever.

      And Schumer is all about sex-appeal.

  16. Civil forfeiture is nothing more than government banditry. It is a national disgrace, putting us on the same level as Turd World kleptodictatorships.

  17. At least it’s tax deductible.

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