Asset Forfeiture

Miami Cops Kept Businessman's Cash Long After They Knew It Was Legitimate

Abuses inspire a proposal to abolish civil forfeiture in Florida.

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Office of Jeff Brandes

Luis Felipe Ospina Garrido used to have a business buying cellphones in Miami and selling them in Bogota. The business involved traveling with large amounts of cash, typically in euros, which he always declared as required by federal law. In 2012 customs agents in Miami seized €100,000 from Garrido, thinking it looked like drug money. After the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to pursue the case, the Miami-Dade Police Department decided to keep the cash based on an allegation that Garrido had committed bank fraud in Colombia by failing to declare the money as he was leaving. It took nine months for Garrido to get his money back, during which time his business went under and he was forced to lay off his employees.

WGCU, the PBS station in Fort Myers, reports that cases like Garrido's inspired a state legislator, Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), to introduce a bill that would reform Florida's forfeiture practices. Those practices earned a D+ in a recent report from the Institute for Justice.

Under Brandes' bill, police could seize someone's property only after arresting him and keep it only after obtaining a conviction. Under current law, by contrast, police can take and keep someone's property without even charging him with a crime. The change proposed by Brandes would effectively abolish civil forfeiture, allowing asset confiscation only in connection with criminal cases. He also wants police to keep systematic records of forfeitures. He told WGCU "most Floridians would be shocked to know that this is occurring in their state—that the law enforcement can actually do this."

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri complains that "it really hinders effective law enforcement to require a criminal conviction." Garrido's experience suggests that Florida law enforcement agencies need to be hindered. After Garrido sued the Miami police for damages and attorney's fees, an appeals court judge was dismayed to learn that the cops kept Garrido's cash even after it became clear, within days of the seizure, that it came from a legitimate source.

"How can you justify holding and taking someone's money when they have a legitimate business purpose for having the money?" the judge asked. "Maybe it was suspicious when it came in, but he declared it. At some point, you just cannot be an ostrich and hide your head in the sand." 

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  1. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri complains that “it really hinders effective law enforcement to require a criminal conviction.”

    Thief inconvenienced by procedure.

    /sheds a single tear, Obama style.

    1. I think Bob G actually meant to say, “it really hinders effective law enforcement to require a law to be broken.”

  2. Bob Guiltier is a goddamned thieving fascist thug who belongs behind bars. Fuck him, and fuck anyone who ever voted for him.

    -jcr

  3. “it really hinders effective law enforcement to require a criminal conviction”

    So what this fucker just said is: It’s much easier for us to arrest criminals if you define “criminal” as “people we arrest”.

    Not that this is very surprising given that “presumption of innocence” is a joke – everybody knows the cops wouldn’t have arrested you if you weren’t guilty, which excuses the corner-cutting by the cops and the prosecutor and the judge (quite likely a former prosecutor) and the jury. We all know you’re guilty so all this nonsense about warrants and probable cause and rules of evidence are just you trying to weasel out of being held to account for your scumbaggery, which proves just what a scumbag you are, you scumbag.

    1. Presumption of innocence is a privilege reserved for law enforcement.

      1. “irrebuttable presumption”

  4. …and keep it only after obtaining a conviction.

    So they can keep it as long as they claim to be pursuing a case?

    1. I thought this, too. Keep the case alive, or keep charging him with some little thing or another, and keep the cash.

  5. “At some point, you just cannot be an ostrich and hide your head in the sand.”
    Like Ayn Rand said, it’s not who is going to let them, it’s who is going to stop them.

  6. The police department should be made to pay interest on the money they held.

  7. The police department should be made to pay interest on the money they held.

    1. Double what they held!

  8. What right do politicians have to constantly make laws without the consent of the people. They are elected officials not dictators. That is why I am an Anarchist.

    1. The magic of Representation means they are doing The Will of the People, just as God gave the King a Divine Right to rule.

      We live under a feudal system. Only the costumes have changed.

  9. Jeff Brandes’ bill could be reduced to one sentence: “Government thugs must adhere to Fifth Amendment”.

  10. In a just world these cops would be sitting in prison for theft. Isn’t that what holding property that one has no claim to against the will of the property owner is? What a bunch of assholes.

    1. What are you gonna do, call the cops?

  11. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri complains that “it really hinders effective law enforcement our ability to rob citizens to require a criminal conviction.”

    FTFY.

  12. ” Florida’s forfeiture practices, which earned a D+ ”

    It should be noted that the way IJ grades, that’s a “gentleman’s D”.

    The lowest any state gets in the IJ grading is a D-.

    All of the D’s are failures in their role of securing property rights, and are in fact destructive to that end.

  13. Fuck asset forfeiture.

  14. “Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri complains that “it really hinders effective law enforcement to require a criminal conviction.”

    Go suck a lemon Gualtieri. THE GUY WAS LEGIT AND YOU KNEW IT and yet you still spin it with this crap?

  15. On the outskirts of Nuremberg, PA there is a large open field suitable for building the Drug War Crimes Tribunal.

    20 woodchippers, no waiting.

  16. This is the reason people don’t want to get involved with state agencies in the first place. The police is always there to trick you and from your money. Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to run your own business. The best option is to create something on your own and stay away from government. Surely you will need money to do it, but this site is everything you need to start up a business of your own.

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