Civil Asset Forfeiture

DEA Will Return $82K Life Savings It Seized From an Elderly Pittsburgh Man and His Daughter

Neither Terry Rolin or his daughter were ever charged with a crime, but that didn't stop the DEA from trying to seize more than $82,000 from them through civil asset forfeiture.

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will return more than $82,000 that it seized from an elderly Pittsburgh man and his daughter after a federal class-action lawsuit was filed on their behalf last month.

The Institute for Justice, the libertarian-leaning public interest law firm that filed the lawsuit, announced today that the DEA will return $82,373 that it seized from Rebecca Brown six months ago at a Pittsburgh airport. The money was the life savings of her father, Terry Rolin, a 79-year-old retired railroad engineer. She says she intended to deposit the money in a bank but ran out of time before her flight.

According to Brown, a DEA agent met her at her gate and grilled her about the money. Brown told The Washington Post that the agent demanded she put her confused father on the phone, and, when their stories didn't exactly match, the agent seized the cash.

"I'm grateful that my father's life savings will soon be returned, but the money never should have been taken in the first place. I can't believe they're not even offering an apology for the stress and pain they caused for my family," Brown said in a press release today. "Without this money, my father was forced to put off necessary dental work—causing him serious pain for several months—and could not make critical repairs to his truck."

In cases like Rolin's, the DEA seizes cash using civil asset forfeiture, a practice that allows police to seize cash and property suspected of being connected to criminal activity, even if the owner is not charged with a crime.

After the seizure, the DEA notified Brown that it was seeking to permanently forfeit Rolin's life savings. Neither Rolin or Brown were charged with a crime.

Law enforcement groups say civil asset forfeiture is a vital tool to disrupt organized drug trafficking by targeting its illicit revenues. However civil liberties groups say there are too few protections for innocent owners and too many perverse profit incentives for police. More than half of all U.S. states have passed some form of asset forfeiture reform because of these concerns, but it is less constrained at the federal level.

Although it is legal to fly domestically with large amounts of undeclared cash, the Institute for Justice lawsuit claims the DEA has a practice or policy of seizing currency from travelers at U.S. airports without probable cause simply if the dollar amount is greater than $5,000. This practice, the suit argues, violates travelers' Fourth Amendment rights.

"We are glad that Terry will get his money back, but it is shameful that it takes a lawsuit and an international outcry for the federal government to do the right thing," said Institute for Justice senior attorney Dan Alban. "We know that this routinely happens to other travelers at airports across the United States."

In 2016, a USA Today investigation found the DEA seized more than $209 million from at least 5,200 travelers in 15 major airports over the previous decade.

A 2017 report by the Justice Department Office of Inspector General found that the DEA seized more than $4 billion in cash from people suspected of drug activity over the previous decade, but $3.2 billion of those seizures were never connected to any criminal charges.

The report reviewed 100 cash seizures and found that only 44 of those were connected to or advanced a criminal investigation. The majority of seizures occurred in airports, train stations, and bus terminals, where the DEA regularly snoops on travel records and maintains a network of travel industry employees who act as confidential informants.

"When seizure and administrative forfeitures do not ultimately advance an investigation or prosecution, law enforcement creates the appearance, and risks the reality, that it is more interested in seizing and forfeiting cash than advancing an investigation or prosecution," the Inspector General warned.

That warning has not been heeded, and Brown and the Institute for Justice plan to continue pursuing their lawsuit.

"The government shouldn't be able to take money for no reason, hang on to it for months, and then give it back like nothing happened, which is why the lawsuit we filed will continue," Brown said. "No one should be forced to go through this nightmare."

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  1. Law enforcement groups say civil asset forfeiture is a vital tool to disrupt organized drug trafficking…

    In this case Novocaine.

  2. There is nothing civil about asset confiscation.

    1. “Law enforcement groups say civil asset forfeiture is a vital tool to disrupt organized drug trafficking by targeting its illicit revenues.”

      Which is, in itself, one of the stronger arguments for tossing the War On Drugs onto the ash heap of history.

  3. The Institute for Justice is what today’s ACLU should be.

    1. Complete agreement!

    2. Amen to that. The ACLU fell to Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy decades ago.

    3. It’ll be a sad day when the IJ gets skinsuited by leftist shitheels.

  4. “When seizure and administrative forfeitures do not ultimately advance an investigation or prosecution, law enforcement creates the appearance, and risks the reality, that it is more interested in seizing and forfeiting cash than advancing an investigation or prosecution,” the Inspector General warned.

    Most things government does is nothing more than a cash grab. Want to engage in commerce? Not until you pay for licences and permits. That speeding ticket wasn’t for public safety. It was revenue. This is reality. All they want is your money.

    1. “All they want is your money.”

      You forgot our so-called “pubic educational” systems! They want our brains ass well!

      BRAINS… BRAINS… HUNGRY!!! … BRAINS… BRAINS… WE NEED TO FEED ON BRAINS… BRAINS… BRAINS…

      1. You’re not funny; just another creepy old man.

        Tell the audience: do you own a white van?

        1. No… Butt I have VERY often frequented a white van owned by Yer Momma! THAT is “how cum” yer brothers and sisters don’t look very much at all, like you and yer Dad!

          1. Fuck off.

            1. Do you recall the awesome enchanter named “Tim”, in “Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail”? The one who could “summon fire without flint or tinder”? Well, you remind me of Tim… You are an enchanter who can summon persuasion without facts or logic!

      2. That reminds me of a song.

        Re: Your Brains, by Johnathan Coulton

        1. Thanks!

          https://genius.com/Jonathan-coulton-re-your-brains-lyrics

          [Verse 1]
          Heya Tom, it’s Bob from the office down the hall
          Good to see you buddy, how’ve you been?
          Thing have been OK for me, except that I’m a zombie now
          I really wish you’d let us in
          I think I speak for all of us when I say I understand
          Why you folks might hesitate to submit to our demand
          But here’s an FYI: you’re all gonna die screaming!

          [Chorus]
          All we want to do is eat your brains
          We’re not unreasonable; I mean, no one’s gonna eat your eyes
          All we want to do is eat your brains
          We’re at an impasse here–maybe we should compromise:
          If you open up the doors
          We’ll all come inside and eat your brains!

          [Verse 2]
          I don’t want to nitpick, Tom, but is this really your plan?
          To spend your whole life locked inside a mall?
          Maybe that’s OK for now, but someday you’ll be out of food and guns
          And then you’ll have to make the call
          I’m not surprised to see you haven’t thought it through enough
          You never had the head for all that bigger-picture stuff
          But Tom, that’s what I do, and I plan on eating you slowly!

          [Chorus]
          All we want to do is eat your brains
          We’re not unreasonable; I mean, no one’s gonna eat your eyes
          All we want to do is eat your brains
          We’re at an impasse here–maybe we should compromise:
          If you open up the doors
          We’ll all come inside and eat your brains!

          [Bridge]
          I’d like to help you, Tom, in any way I can
          I sure appreciate the way you’re working with me
          I’m not a monster, Tom, well, technically I am
          I guess I am…

          [Verse 3]
          I’ve got another meeting, Tom–maybe we could wrap it up?
          I know we’ll get to common ground somehow
          Meanwhile, I’ll report back to my colleagues, who were chewing on the doors
          I guess we’ll table this for now
          I’m glad to see you take constructive criticism weII
          Thank you for your time, I know we’re all busy as hell
          And we’ll put this thing to bed, when I bash your head open!

          [Chorus]
          All we want to do is eat your brains
          We’re not unreasonable; I mean, no one’s gonna eat your eyes
          All we want to do is eat your brains
          We’re at an impasse here–maybe we should compromise:
          If you open up the doors
          We’ll all come inside and eat your brains!

        2. Captain Kirk is climbing a mountain. Why is he climbing a mountain?

  5. Fuck the police, a practice that allows citizens to give authority the middle finger to cops suspected of being total and complete douchebags!

  6. One of the conspicuously missing deets from this story is just how did the DEA agent know to target and shakedown this particular traveler. Was is it a friendly neighborhood TSA agent who saw something, said something in order to get something?

    When will people learn not to answer questions from the gubmint.

    1. TSA agents are heroes who risk their lives every day to keep us safe.

      1. It SHOULD be dangerous to molest the children, wives, and elderly parents of American men right in front of them, but, sadly, it is not.

      2. That’s hilarious! Overpaid, underworked, surly and nasty. Iv’e watched them wand down 4 year old children, berate a pregnant woman, and worse. Spend a little time in an airport sometime. See for yourself.

        1. Welcome to the comments section. Please use this as an opportunity to calibrate your sarcasm meter accordingly.

  7. Want this to stop? Start cutting off the dominant hands of every fed involved. If they want to suck up to Islam, put them under The Law.

    1. This practice isn’t Islamic, it’s communism. Any person who supports civil asset forfeiture is a communist, plain and simple.

      1. You don’t forfeit anything in a communist regime, they already own everything. Asset forfeiture is pure capitalism at its worse, allowing law enforcement legal thievery under the guise of maintaining the law. Incentive is a double edge sword. One new plant manager I knew was promised a cut of the profits if he could improve the bottom line. One way that is done is to increase sales, eliminate waste and streamline overhead. Instead, the manager was improving the bottom line by ripping off their most important and major customer. That is what most CEOs do anyway, that is why they make many more millions than their European counterpart. We are living in the age of the big ripoff, no ethics at all, like in the late fifties. That is why the dollar is becoming worthless day by day. When the pool of non producing workers (investors, bankers, financial consultants, hedge fund managers, insurance companies, stock holders who own millions of shares of each company), gets larger and as they demand more and more money by ripping people off, usually be eliminating competition what they like to call consolidation, resulting in higher prices, there is less and less value behind the currency you are given as wages. The cops are just getting in on their share of the ripoff.

        1. What a bizarre response. We aren’t under a communist regime, but some people are doing their best to push us in that direction whether they are aware of it or not.

  8. The Rule of Law cannot co-exist with “qualified immunity”. Plus it is so obvious that law enforcement hires only sociopaths. Carry on with your little debates about Rights and wrongs and try to come up with a good Reason.

  9. trumpksi you hero at work:
    Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded restrictions that the Obama administration had placed on civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement officials to seize property and cash that they believe are connected to criminal activity.

    1. Trump had a falling out with Sessions .

    2. arpiniant1
      March.5.2020 at 8:08 am
      “trumpksi you hero at work:..”

      Fucking lefty ignoramus posting.

    3. You must be new here. You won’t find too may Trump apologists here.

      Know your audience, moron.

  10. We should pass a constitutional amendment to protect people from the government seizing their property without compensation.

    1. Yeah…wouldn’t that be something? If only the founding fathers had thought of that…

  11. Wanna help someone who actually accomplishes something? Toss some bucks in the IJ bucket.

  12. “She says she intended to deposit the money in a bank but ran out of time before her flight.”

    Sure.

    1. I know. But, I believe you have the right to be stupid and walk around with 82K in cash.

      She couldn’t get a cashier’s check? I’d rather take a later flight than deal with that.

      1. Of course it’s stupid, But stupid and illegal are two completely different things, besides, not everyone is as aware as we are of the law enforcement community’s love of stealing money from innocent people. These people are no more than thieves with badges and they should be in prison where we send others who steal this much money.

    2. So you know something we don’t know? Please, o wise one…enlighten us.

      Bootlicker.

  13. “The whole good cop/bad cop question can be disposed of much more decisively. We need not enumerate what proportion of cops appears to be good or listen to someone’s anecdote about his Uncle Charlie, an allegedly good cop. We need only consider the following: (1) a cop’s job is to enforce the laws, all of them; (2) many of the laws are manifestly unjust, and some are even cruel and wicked; (3) therefore every cop has agreed to act as an enforcer for laws that are manifestly unjust or even cruel and wicked. There are no good cops.” ~Robert Higgs

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  15. A citizen can’t get justice. Why? The political paradigm supported by the public is fundamentally unjust, immoral, and unsound, e.g, causes social instability by removing right’s protections. The people believed to be heroes for risking their lives to protect out rights turn out to be our biggest right’s violators, thanks to others given the power to rule over us using the initiation of violence, threats, fraud. This is the fundamental flaw in the political system (paradigm) that is found the world over. It is not addressed in the main stream media, the congress, the executive, or the judiciary. In fact, it is blatantly ignored in pubic schools that teach it is never correct for a private individual to initiate violence, and even rarely correct (politically) for violence to be used against violence (self-defense). However, a public official is authorized to initiate violence, threaten, WITHOUT accountability and it is the citizen’s DUTY to submit, to comply, to be ruled over, by virtue of the fact that citizens have voted for this system of rulers/ruled, of mass self-enslavement. I didn’t authorized it and no one can authorize it for me. Democracy is mob rule and the mob can be irrational, self-destructive, self-enslaving and delusional. Want proof? Look at the world’s political disfunction.

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  17. I’m happy for the victims but sad for the country. Clearly, DEA returned the money merely to moot the case. What the country needs is for the federal courts to make a definitive ruling with national scope to end this despicable practice.

  18. I fear this is merely a legal ploy to avoid going forward in a trial that would involve many more plaintiffs in a class action suit. I’m not a lawyer, but they can now say the case brought by the original plaintiff is moot since they returned the money. Ergo the class action collapses.
    The Feds don’t return money unless they fear keeping it will hurt their money grubbing profit center for the future. The additional problem is that many city jurisdictions have passed laws to get a portion of seizures they execute under the law. I know of a small town on IH10 that has furnished all their employees with new SUVs from the seizures they make. NO amount is too small since very few poorer citizens can afford the legal fees to recover their money.

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