Asset Forfeiture

After Stalling for Two Years, CBP Returns Truck It Stole at the Border

Gerardo Serrano still has not been compensated for the expenses imposed by the seizure.

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Institute for Justice

Yesterday Gerardo Serrano was reunited with his 2014 Ford F-250 pickup truck, which was arrested by Customs and Border Protection officers two years ago in connection with international arms smuggling. The smuggling involved five handgun rounds that Serrano forgot to remove from the truck's center console before embarking on a trip to visit his cousin in Mexico. The truck was never formally charged with a crime, and neither was Serrano, as is typical in civil forfeiture cases. After the Institute for Justice filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of Serrano and other similarly situated vehicle owners last month, I.J. says in a press release, CBP lawyers suddenly told him "he could pick up his truck whenever he wanted."

CBP's capitulation is yet another example of how standing up to asset-seizing bullies can pay off, especially if you have the Institute for Justice in your corner. But I.J. is not done with CBP. "The government cannot illegally seize and keep someone's property for two years, and then give it back and pretend like no harm was done," says I.J. attorney Robert Everett Johnson. "We will continue to fight to see that Gerardo is made whole, and to make sure this never happens again."

Serrano still has not been compensated for the costs imposed by the seizure of his truck. He continued to make monthly $672 car payments even though he could no longer use the truck, paid $700 a year to insure it and $1,000 to keep it registered in his home state of Kentucky, and spent thousands of dollars on rental cars. Then there is the matter of the $3,805 bond (10 percent of the truck's value) that he had to pay so he could challenge the seizure in court. Serrano never got his day in court, but the government still has his money. If I.J. had not represented him pro bono, Serrano probably also would have had to pay a lawyer thousands of dollars.

The I.J. lawsuit focuses on the lack of due process for property owners like Serrano, who lose the use of their vehicles for extended periods of time while their forfeiture cases stall. In Serrano's case, CBP never even got around to filing a forfeiture complaint. In the Western District of Texas, I.J. says, the average time between a CBP vehicle seizure and the filing of a forfeiture complant is 150 days.

"No judge would have approved the seizure of Gerardo's truck," says I.J. attorney Anya Bidwell. "And that's precisely why Customs and Border Protection is giving it back. We're just saying the agency should have to explain themselves to a judge promptly after it first takes the property."

Serrano is happy about the semi-victory but wants to see more evidence that CBP has seen the error of its car-stealing ways. "I'm thrilled to have my truck back," Serrano says. "But I'd like somebody to apologize for taking it in the first place."

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  1. “The government cannot illegally seize and keep someone’s property for two years, and then give it back and pretend like no harm was done,” says I.J. attorney Robert Everett Johnson.

    Well, apparently they can.

  2. I’m too tired, and so when I read this title I combined it with a mention of Biden in another story near it and thought it said, “After stalling for two years, Biden returns truck he stole at the border.”

    Of course, we only wish that was the case.

    1. Yeah, Biden never returned that truck.

      1. Mr. Serrano would likely not want to get that truck back.

        1. Anyway, he sold it to a chop shop in Monterrey and used the proceeds to buy a grocery bag full of primo Oaxaca Kush.

  3. CBP’s capitulation is yet another example of how standing up to asset-seizing bullies can pay off, especially if you have the Institute for Justice in your corner.

    It also seems like a way for them to prevent cases like them from escalating to actual legal consequence. When they get pushed, let it go. This stops it from going to trial and leading to actual reform. So, other than massive inconvenience towards all, the only ones truly fucked are those too weak to fight back.

    1. Seems to be a common thread with most legislation. I wonder … naaaahhhh

  4. “But I’d like somebody to apologize for taking it in the first place.”

    Take your truck and go home rather than await a miracle.

  5. I approve of his rainbow flag shirt.

  6. If it kept stalling they should have towed it back to him. No excuse.

  7. If that is a post-seizure photo, the truck looks really good. Did it sit in a lot all that time, or was it being used by the robbers?

    1. They ran it all over this country, it just so happens that it was Built Ford Tough.

    2. They ran it all over this country, it just so happens that it was Built Ford Tough.

  8. Guess they need to change the old saying that FORD = Fix Or Repair Daily.

    1. Apparently, it is like a new truck probably driven for less than 2 years. In this forged wheels section ( http://4wheelonline.com/forged-wheels.292396 ), Ford and other trucks new and old, gives a new look.

  9. RE: After Stalling for Two Years, CBP Returns Truck It Stole at the Border
    Gerardo Serrano still has not been compensated for the expenses imposed by the seizure.

    Mr. Serrano should not be compensated for the expenses imposed by the seizure because he had the temerity to drive his vehicle at the border with out permission from The State.
    You play, you pay.

  10. I wonder what got planted in the truck before Serrano got it back.

  11. Don’t wanna be a thug, don’t be drivin’ no pickups.

  12. He continued to make monthly $672 car payments

    Holy shit. Admittedly, it’s been a while since I bought a car, but that seems steep for a freakin pickup.

    1. Some of them get up to $50,000 or so once you’ve kitted them out.

    2. My guess is that’s with little to no down payment and questionable credit. That being said, this is why it’s good to buy used.

    3. The local Honda dealer wants to sell a CB1100 EX _motorcycle_ for what I paid for my dealer-new C1500 stepside back in ’92. God I miss that truck – Stupid deer. Stupid Saturn S-Series. Stupid tree.

  13. If it takes that long for them to get around to going ahead with the proceedings, and they are already unaccountable with the property they have taken, what would happen if using GPS, you located the vehicle, went there with a spare key and took it back, assuming it was a relatively easily accessible lot. Drive it back to Kentucky and go about his business. 3 or 4 months later they try to process it, “Bill, where is that F150?.. I thought you were using it? No.. Shit who has it?.. well we can’t let anybody know we lost it, let’s just loose the paperwork and pretend we never took it in the first place. Hell the guy never even, filed any paperwork so it’s like it never happened.

    If you are ever pulled over in the future you say a tow truck dropped it off in front of your house, you thought they gave it back once they didn’t find any contraband.

    1. That sounds like a good way to get murdered by cops.

      1. BestUsedCarSales, If your name is associated with your profession, I think you might have a biased opinion. Those police auctions must be a good way to bolster your inventory. Besides, walking out your door in the morining is a good way to get murdered by cops, you’ve gots to roll the dice, and takes your chances.

      2. But there are so many ways. Is this one of the better ways or should I keep my options open?

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