Lawsuit against DEA for stealing 79-year-old man’s life savings


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Theft by government: According to a lawsuit filed yesterday in federal court against the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and officials from both agencies, government officials confiscated the life savings of a 79-year-old man, totaling $82,373, merely because his daughter was transporting the money in cash on an airplane flight.

At 79, he was aging and worried about keeping so much cash on hand, his daughter said, so during one of her visits he asked her to open a joint bank account. Rebecca Brown was catching a flight home from the Pittsburgh airport early the next day and said she didn’t have time to stop at a bank. She confirmed on a government website that it’s legal to carry any amount of cash on a domestic flight and tucked the money in her carry-on.

But just minutes before departure in late August, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent met her at the busy gate and questioned her about the cash, which showed up on a security scan. He insisted Brown put Rolin on the phone to confirm her story. Brown said Rolin, who is suffering mental decline, was unable to verify some details. “He just handed me the phone and said, ‘Your stories don’t match,’ ” Brown recalled the agent saying. ” ‘We’re seizing the cash.’ “

Brown said she was never told she or her father were under suspicion of committing any crime and neither has been charged with anything. A search of her bag turned up no drugs or other contraband. Neither she or her father appear to have criminal records that might raise suspicions.

Brown and Rolin filed a federal, class-action lawsuit Wednesday against the DEA, Transportation Security Administration and agency officials, claiming the agencies violate the Constitution’s ban on unlawful search and seizures by taking cash from travelers without probable cause. The lawsuit claims the only criteria the DEA has for seizing cash is if it finds amounts greater than $5,000.

This is out-and-out theft by these government officials. Not only should the money be returned, every government official involved in this theft should be fired, and possibly face sanctions themselves.

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31 comments

  • Cotour

    She should have made time to go to the bank.

    In reality, in this atmosphere that exists in the real America and at airports specifically this woman gets on a plane with $80+ grand in CASH and thinks she is not going to at least have an issue with it? Where has she been? Why would you risk being questioned in the least? And that is no excuse for the government agent or agency to do as they please.

    The agent if given ANY reason, any inconsistency in the answering of a question can and will default confiscate the money, its just too much and becomes immediately suspicious from their point of view, and then its your problem. This is one of those “I can be as dumb as I choose to be and its not my fault”.

    The woman and her father should receive the money back ASAP if after an expedited investigation is done it all reasonably makes sense. I ask again, where has this woman lived for the past 20 years? Is she not paying attention? She is paying attention now.

  • Robert Pratt

    Cotour, balderdash on your statements. This is a country of laws and no citizen should have to expect he will be punished for not breaking a law. Government agents should fear us not the inverse. I’m not talking could’ve, should’ve fantasy. I’m talking real life. These agents involved need be pursued in court, sullied in media, and be made such a problem for their bureaucrat bosses that their careers are ended. I’ve had gov’t unjustly attack me and I fought back, teaching a few lessons along the way.

  • Cotour

    Robert Pratt:

    Please choose an amount you would be comfortable with and going to an airport and going through todays security in an American airport. $1000?, $3000?, $5000?, $10,000?, $82,000? $500,000?

    Make a choice in the reality of todays world, not in a world that does not exist. You may not like the reality that you find yourself but that is the reality in which you find yourself. You would choose to get on a plane today carrying $82,000 dollars? To go to an airport today with more than $3 or $4, maybe $5 or $6 grand in cash is a fools errand.

    Have you ever heard of the Patriot Act Mr. Pratt? That is duly passed law and it creates the ability of a TSA agent to certain steps of confiscation if you might appear to be a cash mule for a drug operation or other possibly terror related organization. All contained within nicely written law as per your specification.

    Ballerdash? Are you of the Malarkey generation?

  • Cotour

    Mr. Pratt:

    Choose an amount you would be comfortable going to an airport and going through todays security: $2000?, $5000?, $10,000? $82,000?, $500,000? Me? Maybe $3000 in cash.

    Have you ever heard of the Patriot Act Mr. Pratt? A nicely written law that satisfies your specification.

    Your talking real life? Are you certain?

    To go to an airport today, in the real world, and expect to go through security and not expect an issue while carrying what you will have to admit is a hefty amount of cash, $82,000, where a security agent could reasonably assume that you might be a cash mule for a drug operation or a terror operation. As per the patriot Act, duly passed LAW, that is the definition of their job.

    You may not like where you find yourself, Mr. Pratt, but have no doubt that is exactly where you find yourself. And not recognizing or not being aware of that fact and what has brought us to this point in America is a form of self imposed fantasy.

    Ballderdash? That word may indicate, much like Joe “Malarkey” Biden, why you see this reality for what it is not.

  • Robert Pratt

    I have carried up to 30K in cash with me in many cases. I have carried more than 10K, disclosed as law requires, out of the country. I have crossed international borders to the USA around a thousand times. I have never assumed I would be arrested for not breaking the law.

  • Cotour

    No one was arrested.

    Show up at an airport, today, not in the 1980’s, with a liter bottle of water in your bag and you can expect a problem, and this woman shows up with $82K in cash. And never mind rationalizing and being comfortable carrying that amount of money around to begin with, but she gets on a plane with it knowing of the high degree of security she will be undergoing. Which is her right if she so chooses, and she did call a government agency to find out whether what she wanted to do was legal. Much like calling the IRS for tax advice.

    What Malarkey!

  • Cotour: Why are you rationalizing what is clearly an abuse of power by these government officials, and a clear violation of the Constitution itself and at least two amendments of the Bill of Rights?

    It isn’t the government’s job to decide whether it is wise to bring lots of cash with you on a flight, and then punish you for doing so. Period. Moreover, they have no right to seize private property without just compensation. Period.

    I repeat, why are you rationalizing this blatantly illegal and abusive behavior?

  • Cotour

    I am not rationalizing what the government is doing, not at all. I am presenting the reality within which we live presently from the perspective of someone traveling. The woman was not wise in her decision, on many levels.

    Would you get on a plane today with $82K in cash? That’s a rhetorical question, of course you would not.

    Should she or you be able to do it if she / you so chose? Certainly.

    Don’t shoot the messenger, talk to Bush jr. and the Congress who duly passed the laws after 911 that Mr. Pratt sighted was necessary for the government agent in the airport to be justified to act as he or she did. Do I trust such people and their objectivity and judgement? That’s also a rhetorical question.

  • Cotour: Your focus is still blaming the victim. Just because the reality we live in today is bad is not a reason to justify it.

    The attacks must be focused on those who did wrong. This woman broke no laws. The government officials who stole her father’s money broke numerous laws, and should be in prison for those acts.

  • commodude

    I don’t care whether someone has 80 cents or 80 thousand in cash. It isn’t the government’s job to care UNLESS someone uses it for illegal purposes.

    Assuming someone is guilty because of the amount of legal tender they have on them is making them prove innocence rather than making the government prove guilt. The Patriot act is one of the biggest usurpations of individual rights in the modern era.

    Civil forfeiture, regardless of the legal language one uses to condone it, is theft by the government, pure and simple.

  • Cotour

    Agreed.

    But that is exactly where we find ourselves.

    “UNLESS someone uses it for illegal purposes. ”

    How does a TSA agent determine that? Give the wrong answer or scratch your nose in the wrong manner at the wrong time and a TSA agent and his or her manager will /may go with an over abundance of caution.

    And that is not the justification of the act it is the reality of the fact in todays world. Would you risk getting on a plane today with a pocket knife? A computer with wires sticking out of it? With a block of cash containing $82K? No way.

    Just a bad move in todays world.

  • commodude

    The TSA agent, being an overpaid, overprotected rentacop, shouldn’t be determining anything beyond the precise black and white of the law.

    They’ve violated the law so frequently that the poorly conceived and abysmally executed agency should be terminated.

  • Chris Lopes

    It’s called due process. No one was arrested because no laws were broken, at least not by the woman. An agent of the state took property that was not his without so much as a warrant. No one went before a judge and made the case that movement of that much money is illegal. Just some bored as [deleted] government worker decided that (even though it isn’t illegal) he could take what was not his.

  • Sippin_bourbon

    Civil assert for future and the patriot act are two separate laws.
    I do not believe the latter is in okay here.
    The gov will fight,and likely win, by simply making it too expensive for the lowly citizen to fight back.

  • Chris Lopes: I have deleted the obscenity from your comment. You have been here awhile and should know the rules, which are listed just above the most recent ten comments on the main page. No obscenities are allowed on Behind the Black. You are suspended for a week.

    I really wish I did not have to do this policing, and more people did it for themselves. We are supposed be mature civilized adults, not children screaming at each other in a schoolyard.

  • Phill O

    Just when I cure myself of cursing, it is income tax time again!

  • Lee S

    I’m a little confused here….. It’s no surprise that this lady aroused some interest from officials by carrying such a large amount of cash…. And rightly so… That is what they are paid to do… The vast majority of times someone has a suitcase full of bank notes it is not because they are carrying it for their aging father, but for more nefarious reasons.
    My confusion is regarding if she got the money back? Yes… Ask questions, yes… Take the money until the answers are verified, yes… Say “sorry, just doing my job” and return the money… I see no problems in that scenario, but as the story stands, by my reading, she didn’t get the cash returned… Which is out and out theft…. Am I missing something?

  • wayne

    This has been going on for quite some time–mid 1980’s is when it really got rolling.
    >>This is what you get when you launch various “wars-on-drugs.”
    The Patriot Act just made it easier and more all-inclusive. They don’t need a REASON to seize your money, and you have to prove it’s not illicitly derived to get it back.
    Unconstitutional? Oh yeah. You want to fight it? Good luck.
    We’re currently engaged in a futile war-on-opiates, and it won’t end well on a number of different levels.
    (You need pain-killers? You DON’T GET ANY, not any more. You might as well sign up for Hospice, ‘cuz you aint getting anything, unless you’re dying, imminently.)
    –I bought my daughter a car with cash in 2010, I had to file 2 currency transaction reports at the car dealership, lest I be charged with “structuring” the transaction.
    Tangentially– we just legalized Mary Jane in Michigan—it remains illegal under Federal Law and the Shops have a very hard time banking, ‘cuz all banks are regulated by the Feds, and if you accept ‘drug-money,’ as a bank, your exposure is endless and the Feds can shut your Bank down instantly, if they want.

    William S. Burroughs
    Drugstore Cowboy
    https://youtu.be/oKPcR3tADXc?t=165
    cued to relevant part…

    “narcotics have been systematically scapegoated and demonized….”

  • Edward

    Lee S asked: “Am I missing something?

    You are missing several things.

    1) There was no due process.

    2) There was no warrant.

    3) There was no evidence of a crime at the time or in the future. (For “Precrime” arrests and convictions, see the movie Minority Report or read the Philip K. Dick story of the same name.) No “interest from officials by carrying such a large amount of cash” should have been aroused, unless they just cannot help helping themselves to a large stash of cash.

    4) TSA is there to prevent terrorism and the hijackings subset of terrorism. If it weren’t for these then there would be no TSA. TSA is not there to confiscate cash. There are no agents stealing cash from people taking trains, buses, cars, or horses, because terrorism and hijackings are fairly rare on these modes of transport, so no agents search (without warrant) through passenger baggage, clothing, or person (e.g. pat down, feel up, strip search, or cavity search). Carrying cash in any amount is not a crime, nor is it probable cause that a crime may occur; it just looks too good to be true for these government thieves, so they just cannot help helping themselves to a large stash of your cash. After all, what thief is willing to let a large payoff get away?

    When you put the government in charge, all you get is what they let you keep.

  • Sippin_bourbon

    I apologize for my earlier indecipherable post. Auto correct tried to help, and failed.

  • Lee S

    @Edward, you are obviously missing something….the whole point of my post!
    Did she get the money back?

  • commodude

    No, otherwise there would be no need for a lawsuit.

  • Edward

    Lee S,
    I had assumed that you read the article. Well, we all know what happens when we assume. Fortunately, the article clarifies your confusion:

    The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Pennsylvania, seeks the return of Rolin’s money and an injunction against the practice.

  • Lee S

    Jeez Guys… I will admit I didn’t read the article, but I got the impression from the synopsis that it was the case that the money was not returned.. I just couldn’t believe it!!!
    I will probably get shot down for this, but over here in Europe that kind of behaviour would never occur! ( Before anyone says it, I know the government steals from us in other ways etc etc etc), but to hear that this occurs over there amazed me! What possible justification do the TSA have for out and out theft? And the rightful owner needs to attempt to use legal means for the return of their own cash?? I have difficulty wrapping my head around the whole issue!!

  • wayne

    Policing for Profit Visualized: How Big Is Civil Forfeiture?
    Institute for Justice
    https://youtu.be/KhAa2vep1z0
    4:46

    First they came for the cash generated from weed, then they came for the cash generated by cocaine base, then they came for the cash generated by hallucinogens, then they came for the cash generated by opiates, now they come for everybody who is left over. As I mentioned previously, the Patriot Act just accelerated it all.

  • wayne

    Al Capone went to prison for tax evasion, not for violating the Volstead Act.

    Glenn Frey – Smuggler’s Blues
    The Miami Vice cut 1984
    https://youtu.be/LSXKyHM133c
    5:39

  • Lee S

    Wayne… In pleased you have so much free time to watch so many YouTube videos…. Unfortunately I don’t have so much free time, and if I did, I wouldn’t use the platform to reinforce or explain my opinions.
    Is there any chance anyone can explain how in “the land of the free”, a government agency can steal money on a whim? Methinks your system over there isn’t quite as golden as I always get explained to me in length, every single time I mention I am quite fond of living under the Swedish system. ( And no, you don’t have to explain why I am wrong to be happy…. You have told me enough)
    This bull poo would NEVER happen over here…. It’s absolutely crazy to my mind that your government has the right to just take your cash…. Full stop.
    And you guys try and school me about all the problems we have over here??? Stones and glass houses anyone?

  • commodude

    Lee,

    It’s a result of the “war on drugs.”

    Politicians used it as a way to increase police agency budgets without increasing taxes.

    Under civil forfeiture if the agency thought the money/car/house etc. was the proceeds form or contributed to the commission of a crime, they could seize the assets involved.

    SCOTUS has limited the scope of such forfeitures, hoping that this case will actually get to SCOTUS to strike down the laws allowing this heinous practice.

  • wayne

    Lee–
    I’m (very) pleased I have so much free time myself! — I’m partially retired at this point but do part-time contract work with my previous employer, it basically covers my insurance. (and I’m not quite old enough to collect social-security and not on Medicare.)
    [tangentially–Medicare is mandatory health insurance for folks who are retired, Medicaid is health insurance for low income folks.)
    –If you watch the 4 minute video– 80+ % of these ‘forfeitures’ are civil seizures, which means they don’t have to actually convict you of a crime, under the perverse theory only drug dealers and terrorists operate on a cash-economy.

    Jordan Peterson / Akira –
    “Those Who Have Everything”
    🌊 JBPWAVE
    https://youtu.be/68X3w6uFwyw
    5:34

    “To those who have everything more will be given, and from those who have nothing everything will be taken.”

    (as you start to wonder off the path, the probability that you will wander further off the path increases non-linearly…)

  • wayne

    Lee–another hour, well spent!
    :)

    “Bootleggers and Baptists”
    Bruce Yandle
    Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism 2014
    https://youtu.be/U6DBztrQYeM
    1:04:26
    “Dr. Bruce Yandle describes “bootleggers” who seek to obtain private benefits from regulation and “Baptists” who seek to serve the public interest and how, in the political economy, politicians often carefully design regulations so that these two very different interest groups will be satisfied.”

  • Edward

    Lee S,
    You asked: “over here in Europe that kind of behaviour would never occur! ( … ), but to hear that this occurs over there amazed me!

    This is what we are so upset about.

    It is clearly against the Constitution in every way. It is even part of the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence. It is unAmerican in every way possible.

    From the Declaration of Independence:
    (10) “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance
    and:
    (18) “For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury

    You wrote: “Methinks your system over there isn’t quite as golden as I always get explained to me in length, every single time I mention I am quite fond of living under the Swedish system.

    The Constitution may not be perfect, but it is better than what we have now. We never said that our system is perfect, we just point out that it is better by far than your system, despite our system not treating us like children who must be saved from ourselves. Indeed, our system is based upon the fundamental fact that a country’s citizens must be saved from the tyranny of government, and that is why government must be kept as small as possible.

    The imperfection of our system is exactly why the amendment process was built in. We were founded as an imperfect union of colonies, and as our Constitution’s Preamble puts it, we strive “to form a more perfect Union.

    A large government will inevitably decide that it is responsible for more than it is responsible for, and will then declare that it may do tyrannical things, such as asset forfeiture without benefit of due compensation, trial by jury, or other matters of fairness.

    This bull poo would NEVER happen over here

    We thought so, too.

    Do not assume that it cannot happen there, because if it can happen here, where the population is supposed to have the first and last word on its own governance, then it can happen in places like yours, where your rights are not natural and inalienable but are granted by your own government. Our government is not supposed to be able to take away our rights — it says so in the Bill of Rights — but your government is free to remove your rights at a whim. Full Stop.

    And you guys try and school me about all the problems we have over here??? Stones and glass houses anyone??”

    Imperfect and usurped as it is, our system is still far better than what you have there. You, too, live in a glass house. You have only found one problem — and you didn’t even find it, we told you about it, because we have the freedom to complain about our own government’s tyranny.

    This problem is why “eternal vigilance is the price we pay for liberty” — Vermont Gazette, July 8, 1817, p. 2 ( https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/eternal-vigilance-price-liberty-spurious-quotation )

    What you are seeing here in this post is part of the eternal vigilance process. We spread the news, opine upon it, and get people like you informed as to the problem so that we all can solve it and be more vigil against it in the future. Informing the population and the world is also why the Declaration of Independence listed grievances, introduced by the phrase: “To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

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