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NYPD Civil Forfeiture Leaves Bronx Family Facing Eviction

A trashed apartment, seized cash, and a family left in the lurch. Another day of asset forfeiture in the U.S.

Frances M. Roberts/NewscomFrances M. Roberts/NewscomA Bronx family is facing eviction after the New York City Police Department raided their apartment and seized more than $2,000 in cash they were saving for rent, The Village Voice reported Tuesday.

NYPD officers burst into an apartment on May 16, looking for a parolee who was a friend of one of the residents. They found and arrested their man, but after the arrest, the officers began searching the rest of the apartment. From the Village Voice article:

Nate Ortiz, 27, who had lived there with his mother and two sisters for his entire life, began to protest. If the parolee, a friend of his, didn't live in the apartment, why were they searching it? He began to ask if the police had a warrant, and under what justification they were going through the rooms. The police just laughed at him at first, but when Ortiz persisted in asking about the legality of the search, they arrested him and everyone else in the apartment.

"It was ransacked," Anna Ortiz, his mother, told the Village Voice, describing her return that night to the rent-stabilized apartment she had been renting for more than 25 years. "They destroyed that apartment."

Even worse than the destruction, the $2,651 in cash that Ms. Ortiz had left in the apartment, which was going towards that month's rent (as well as some back-rent they owed), was missing. No one else could have taken it, except the New York City Police Department. Her son's arrest was now just the beginning of their problems [...] Last week, the family was in housing court to try to stave off eviction, with Anna, who works at a hospital, unable to make up the shortfall with her salary.

According to the article, the Ortiz's managed to obtain a release from the district attorney's office for their money, but they've been fighting the NYPD for weeks to actually get the cash turned back over to them. Their next court hearing is in September.

As I reported last week, Bronx Defenders, a legal aid group that is also representing the Ortiz family, is suing the NYPD for stonewalling a public records request for detailed information on its asset forfeiture program. According to summaries of asset forfeiture revenues obtained by Bronx Defenders, the NYPD had $68 million in seized cash and property on hand as of 2013.

The Village Voice reporter also wrote a 2014 investigation for Gothamist documenting another instance of the NYPD ransacking an apartment and seizing a cash.

The NYPD did not immediately return a request for comment.

Photo Credit: Frances M. Roberts/Newscom

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  • Bubba Jones||

    Don't irritate the pigs.

  • R C Dean||

    If they can hook up with a decent civil rights attorney, they can make bank on this:

    when Ortiz persisted in asking about the legality of the search, they arrested him and everyone else in the apartment.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    I hope he takes those pigs to the achy, breaky, bank.

  • ||

    By "pigs", I take it you mean taxpayers. Because the cops involved are gonna be sipping on taxpayer-funded margaritas while they're enjoying their paid vacation during the investigation that clears them of any wrongdoing.

    Oh, and they'll enjoy the overtime they get for additional training that they inexplicably need in order to not steal from people whose homes they illegally search.

  • Augustine||

    Yep. I guess the only upside is that the cops actually reported the money rather than just pocketing it like they use to do.

  • Sigivald||

    That's not asset forfeiture, that's simple theft.

    "Asset forfeiture" involves actually admitting you took the money, filing paperwork, receipts for it, and a (too slow, too expensive, flawed, but existent) appeals process.

  • Sigivald||

    (That they got a release from the DA almost sort of nearly redeems it, but "just taking some money without mentioning it" is not how forfeiture, for all its abuses, is even legally allowed to work.)

  • Juvenile Bluster||

    Asset forfeiture is theft. This is strong-armed robbery.

    First degree robbery, by the way, is punishable in New York by 5-25 years in prison.

  • ||

    First degree robbery, by the way, is punishable in New York by 5-25 years in prison days of paid vacation.

    FIFY!

  • Juvenile Bluster||

    That's only if you're wearing the correct costume when you do it.

  • ||

    Sometimes the costume isn't enough. I mean, sure, it took a second serious felony charge to get this officer fired. But at least they draw the line in Louisiana on trying to set your wife on fire.

    I bet that woman is glad they don't live in Chicago. He'd be getting a paid vacation and she'd be medium-well.

  • Augustine||

    Hey, we have our standards in Louisiana. Only fire fighters can set their spouses on fire. Cops are suppose to shoot their wifes.

    http://www.wbrz.com/news/quest.....er-s-wife/

  • Alan@.4||

    Another descriptive phrase concerning applicable to Asset Forfeiture aka Civil Asset Forfeiture is Theft Under Color Of Law, which is putting it politely.

  • Hank Phillips||

    In truth it's economic and financial genocide. Prohibitionism is a gateway drug that leads power-drunk looters to nationalization and other gub'mint confiscation of whut ain't their'n. We've seen the results in the Hoovervilles of the 1930s and lately in the asset-forfeiture Crash of 1987-88. In every case the Depression that follows interferes with earning a livelihood, and is as much a health hazard as causing a general power blackout. Bear in mind that a health hazard is that which causes a spike in the death rate of a population. Prohibition and the Crash goosestep hand-in-hand in lockstep so that no rights = no money = no life. Any questions?

  • Crusty Juggler||

    The police just laughed at him at first, but when Ortiz persisted in asking about the legality of the search, they arrested him and everyone else in the apartment.
    the Ortiz's managed to obtain a release from the District Attorney's office for their money, but they've been fighting the NYPD for weeks to actually get the cash turned back over to them.

    The biggest gang in America had themselves a pretty sweet party..

  • ||

    You do't need cash to threaten hookers with jail and raid the evidence locker for blow!

  • Cynical Asshole||

    According to the article, the Ortiz's managed to obtain a release from the District Attorney's office for their money, but they've been fighting the NYPD for weeks to actually get the cash turned back over to them.

    They probably already spent it all.

  • ||

    You can't run the sixth biggest army in the world without money. In their mind, this is just spoils of war.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Excuse me, but the First Biggest Military Capability is at Pantex, just outside of Amarillo... an' don' chew fergedit!

  • ||

    I said sixth. I'm sorry for misquoting that cocksucker Michael Bloomberg. He said he had the seventh largest army in the world.

    Your point still stands.

  • sarcasmic||

    Sometimes I wish our armies would loot those who they conquer. Instead our government loots us so they can spend money "nation building" which always fails.

  • Hank Phillips||

    From Adam Smith's time this sort of state-sponsored looterism has ruined many economies. In 1913 a revenue act provided public inspection of corporate excise tax returns and the economy, by coincidence, went into a tailspin. Herb Hoover did the same thing after turning the feds loose on beer barons and, by coincidence, EVERY bank shut down by February 1933. On 9/11 of 1986 California Republican Lundgen injected "good faith" looting and "substitute" asset forfeiture... Passed House (Amended) by Yea-Nay Vote: 392 - 16 (Record Vote No: 378). By coincidence came the Crash of 1987. This led directly to Bush Senior's fascination with planet-destroying asset forfeiture, followed by the George Waffen Bush "sharing" implementation which, by coincidence, ramped up in 1987 as subprime loans on grow houses were coming up for interest rate adjustments. History is full of the coincidences that can be offset and hedged by voting Libertarian.

  • SoCal Deathmarch||

    "describing her return that night to the rent-stabilized apartment... Even worse than the destruction, the $2,651 in cash that Ms. Ortiz had left in the apartment..."

    The Lord Government giveth and the Lord Government taketh away.

  • IceTrey||

    It's just a few bad apples.

  • Alan@.4||

    And their supervisors too, right?

  • Rhywun||

    Fucking scum. I used to have to pay rent in cash. Of course I didn't hang out with felons (that I knew of) and I lived in a soon-to-be trendy part of Queens but still... oh who am I kidding. This is straight up power-trip sadism.

  • DenverJ||

    And the cops have been arrested for felonies committed under color of authority, right?

  • Cyto||

    In cases of police abuse I'm usually on the Balko side of things - it isn't the individual cop at fault, it is the mission we sent them on, the training we gave them and the accountability we put in place that needs to change.

    But this case.... well... There's still a lot of systemic problems exposed here. The existence of asset forfeiture laws in the first place, department policies, etc. All of that is a stain on the fabric of America. But wow. These guys...

    They weren't even looking for anything specific. They just tore this family's home apart "because we can". And they took their money because they are straight-up dicks. There's no chance they could have believed they were doing the right thing. And the people at the department who are holding their money are just assholes. They already have a directive in hand that says to give the money back. So not handing it over at that point means that not only is the department corrupt, but the asshole sitting there at the desk refusing to hand over their cash is personally responsible for the evil being perpetrated and a raging dickhead.

    Although the harm is far less, this is in a whole different category than the drug-raid-gone-wrong where some innocent person gets shot in their PJ's. In that case the individual officer was put in a position to fail by those above him.

    In this case, you'd have a hard time arguing that the individuals involved don't want this evil to be done. Really shitty people.

  • Alan@.4||

    How does a suit seeking 100 Million Dollars strike you??

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