SWAT Team Raids Home To Recover Student Loan [Updated: Or Not]

from the pay-up dept

Chuck Norris’ Enemy (deceased) was the first of a few of you to write in about the rather insane case of a SWAT team raiding a home over an unpaid student loan. Update: As lots of folks have been pointing out, the original story has now been updated to say it wasn’t a student loan, but rather a larger criminal investigation… Still seems odd that it went down the way that it did, but we’ll do a strikethrough on the post. There have been so many stories lately of misuse of SWAT teams, but this one takes it to a new level. In this case, it was even more ridiculous, because the woman who hadn’t paid her loans had left her family and no longer even lived at the residence that the SWAT team kicked down the door and raided. But, really, let’s take a step back and ask the basic question:

Why is a SWAT team involved in a student loan recovery effort?

It appears that the Department of Education was seeking the woman to get the loan repaid, and somewhere along the way someone (who?!?) thought that this required a SWAT team to break down the door of this guy’s house at 6am in the morning, drag him into his yard, then shove him and his three kids into a police car for a few hours while they searched his house.

I tend to find claims that we’re in “a police state” a bit overwrought and excessive, but when you hear stories like this, it really makes you wonder.

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Comments on “SWAT Team Raids Home To Recover Student Loan [Updated: Or Not]”

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84 Comments
btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Wait, What?

> See, they don’t need a “no knock” warrant.
> *starts pricing ram proof doors*

Won’t work. I ran a warrant with the Houston Police once and the bad guy’s house (and he really *was* a bad guy) was all done up with steel doors and iron bars on the windows just to make the house as police-proof as possible.

HPD rolled up with what is essentially an armored APC, hooked chains to the bars on one of the windows, and the other end to the tank, then drove it away to yank them off. Turns out the bars were stronger than the house itself and it pulled the entire wall of the house off. The drug dealers were sitting in their living room playing XBox and packaging their drugs and suddenly the entire wall disappeared and the house was swarming with cops.

Bad day for them.

AJ says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Wait, What?

Sounds like you did your due diligence, and were 100 percent sure you had the correct house/perps.

Imagine if you pulled the wall off that house and grandma and grandpa came spilling out terrified…spewing ensure in all directions because you were an idiot and didn’t verify the address and/or perps… lol…

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Wait, What?

> Sounds like you did your due diligence,
> and were 100 percent sure you had the correct
> house/perps.

I hear stories all the time of cops running warrants on the wrong house and busting in on innocent people, etc.

I honestly don’t know how that happens. By the time I apply for a warrant, I’ve already spent countless hours surveilling my subject day and night and know both his neighborhood and the place he puts his head down at night almost as good as he does. The warrant is just the last step in the process. I can’t imagine showing up at that point and going to the wrong house any more than I could imagine driving home from work tonight and instead of walking in my front door, walking into my neighbor’s house by mistake.

Anonymous Coward says:

Update to the story

I agree that this is completely insane on all levels. Though I do want to note that the Dept of Ed has sent an update to state that the raid wasn’t for unpaid loans but as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Unlikely that they needed a SWAT team (and they didn’t need to treat that guy the way they did), but at least not AS stupid:

http://reason.com/blog/2011/06/08/dept-of-education-swat-team-up

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Update to the story

I agree that this is completely insane on all levels. Though I do want to note that the Dept of Ed has sent an update to state that the raid wasn’t for unpaid loans but as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Unlikely that they needed a SWAT team (and they didn’t need to treat that guy the way they did), but at least not AS stupid:

Thanks. This had to happen the one day that I’d be away from my desk most of the afternoon, huh? I’ve now updated the post.

AdamR (profile) says:

Well the story has been updated

“Yesterday, the Depart of Education’s office of inspector general executed a search warrant at Stockton California residence with the presence of local law enforcement authorities.

While it was reported in local media that the search was related to a defaulted student loan, that is incorrect. This is related to a criminal investigation. The Inspector General’s Office does not execute search warrants for late loan payments.”

http://reason.com/blog/2011/06/08/dept-of-education-swat-team-up

interesting to see what comes out of this, still seems like overkill. Why SWAT? Its just a search warrant not an arrest warrant.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: There has been an update to the story

It was stated by the DOE in the same statement that they issue warrents for criminal issues such as “bribery, fraud, and embezzlement of federal student aid funds.” It’s not such a stretch to link the two.

I still don’t see how the DOE would be involved in a criminal investigation that involved a violent crime.

The “bribery, fraud, and embezzlement of federal student aid funds” basically means you didn’t repay and we think you lied to us to get the loan.

PW (profile) says:

It may not be so simple

Just went to the Reason site and followed the link to the actual story on the News 10 web site. It appears that the story no longer appears on their site though a search on their site returns a link to the story. Clicking on it, http://www.news10.net/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=141072, gets you to error 404 page. However, a follow-up story does appear here: http://www.news10.net/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=141108.

Noteworthy in this follow-up is the following comment:

“A U.S. government official confirmed for News10 Wednesday morning federal agents with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), not local S.W.A.T., served the search warrant. The official would not say specifically why the raid took place. He did say the search was not related to student loans in default.”

This may be a case of there being more than meets the eye especially with the last sentence. We may want to wait a bit more before jumping to conclusions on this story.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It may not be so simple

You’re an idiot. It was the local media that reported that the raid was for a student loan, but later more information came out indicating this may not be the case. So Mike will likely add an update to the post as he always does. and your point is (beyond discouraging people from taking you and your position seriously by looking like a complete jerk)?

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Update

Supposedly it wasn’t about a defaulted student loan but an ongoing criminal investigation. The AES still sent out the SWAT but for something along the lines of bribery, fraud, or embezzlement of federal student aid funds. That’s still just as bad. Why would you send out the SWAT for any of those?

Question, does the SWAT ever do recon before they bust down doors? Or do they just go into a potentially dangerous environment blind?

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Kenneth Wright does not have a criminal record.
“He had his knee on my back and I had no idea why they were there,” Wright said.

“I look out of my window and I see 15 police officers,” Wright said.

No record, no accusation of a violent crime, but he was met with violent force. THIS IS WHAT A POLICE STATE LOOKS LIKE!

15 not one.

ottermaton says:

debtor's prison

If I recall my US history correctly (and I may not, so please correct me if I’m wrong) one of the grievances against the British “empire” and reasons for rebellion was that of an objection to debtor’s prison. Basically, if you owed someone money – at least a well-connected someone – you could lose your freedom.

This makes me wonder about how that applies EXCEPT when you owe the gov’t money. You can quite literally go to jail for A PARKING TICKET. How does THAT make any sense?

No surprise, then, that we have SWAT collection agecies.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: debtor's prison

> This makes me wonder about how that applies
> EXCEPT when you owe the gov’t money. You can
> quite literally go to jail for A PARKING TICKET.
> How does THAT make any sense?

You’re not going to jail for owing money. You’re going to jail for committing the offense they fined you for in the first place.

However, I’m not sure which jurisdiction you live in where parking violations are jailable offenses. Certainly isn’t the case where I live.

ThomasTheTank says:

About Time!

Well I for one am happy to finally see the government doing something about deadbeats who don’t pay their student loans. You have people who take out student loans, try to file bankruptcy to try and avoid it only to find out they can’t so they jump from job to job to avoid garnishment. Hopefully this will send a message to all the deadbeats out there. This is how law enforcement should look like!!

I hope she gets several years in jail when they find her.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: About Time!

Or you have PPL that take student loans to better themselves, then the dot com bubble bursts and are left with not being able to repay. (A+, NET+, MCP, MCSE, MCSA.) NOT BECAUSE I DID NOT WANT TO. And what, garnish my wages when I am only making 25k a year, have a family to support, and wont accept anything less than 113 a month? When you are looking up from the bottom of a hole you try to find anything to stay afloat. Go F yourself. It must be easy when you live in your mom’s basement. Sorry douche, when it comes down to food on the table or repaying the GOV, the GOV waits.

“This is how law enforcement should look like” – Yeah in China.

Anonymous Coward says:

Perhaps journalistic integrity is too much to expect from Techdirt, but as the facts no longer fit your anti-government fervor, don’t you think the article should be re-written to reflect the truth? A continued unwillingness to correct the record really puts Techdirt in the same laughingstock category as suermarket tabloids.

Anonymous Coward says:

You got took, TD.

I expect better from you, TD. This story is clearly hinky, as it only gives the guy’s POV. He wasn’t the one they were after, so what does he know?

The DOE has already denied it was related to loans. SWAT wouldn’t be called in for a civil matter, so there are more unanswered questions than useful information.

Don’t be so reactionary. Give a story time to breath, so you can smell the ones that stink.

darryl says:

You got took, TD.

“I expect better from you, TD”

Dont hold your breath !

This is EXACTLY what I expect from TD and Masnick

It just would not be the same if Mikes rants were accurate, informative, or made a valid point !

Someone said “why would you even come here if you dont agree with Masnick, we’ll it’s the same reason why the people who DO agree with Mansnick.

Except you come here to reaffirm your belief system, and we come here to question your belief system.

(that is why you ‘types’, are so agressive when Mikes word is questioned).

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

Update to the story

Sorry to get you in the tangle, Mike. Regardless, you can replace SWAT with Department of Education and still be shocked. Second, not paying student loans or getting financial aid under false pretenses could constitute the “criminal” fraud charge they trumped out. She probably put her old address on the forms.

Side note: the beauty of the internet is that you can make updates to stories with changing information. The local news station had to shut down the original story. This flexibility is why the old forms of news media are ill adept at bringing accurate and complete stories in a timely manner.

DogBreath says:

I bet the MPAA/RIAA can't wait for the DoCS (Department of Copyright Security) to be formed and get the kind of powers DoE has...

Interesting tale of that morning:

http://hypervocal.com/news/2011/dept-of-education-sends-s-w-a-t-for-defaulted-student-loans-target-isnt-wright/
(in the comments section)

Mark Reichel says:
June 8, 2011 at 7:32 pm

I am the attorney for Kenneth Wright and his young children and will be filing suit on their behalf.

Mr. Wright, who is divorced from Mrs. Wright, was at home at 6 a.m. with his 3 children, a daughter aged 3 and two boys just slightly older. Their door was kicked down, Kenneth was dragged wearing only boxer shorts (which ripped during the dragging) to his front lawn and a knee was placed against his neck for 45 minutes. He was not shown a copy of any warrant, nor told much of what was going on. When he saw a patrol car by stretching his neck off the grass, he was pleased to find out it wasn?t some organized crime hit on his family, or a crime gang at the wrong address. His children were then marched downstairs with their hands up at gunpoint. Yes, that happened.

6 hours later, when their tiny house had been thoroughly searched by the 15 SWAT team members, they were told they were looking for Mrs. Wright, who appears to be a suspect for low level student loan fraud. This was news to the Wrights, who would have kindly allowed such a search and would have helped them to find Mrs. Wright, if they could. If they could have the knee off their neck. The 15 armed federal SWAT members were ready just in case Mrs. Wright started throwing phony loan documents at them, some with staples.

Mrs. Wright is not related to Osama Bin Laden. Financial executives who did more harm to this country than the Japanese at Pearl Harbor or Al Qaeda did in New York get charged with stealing billions of dollars and are courteously summoned to appear in court when charged. They are in essence ?asked? to appear, on their own, in their best suit, in a limo. She hasn?t been charged, is just under investigation.

Hamilton, Madison, Washington and Jefferson are indeed crying somewhere as they watch what has happened to the people in this country.

Mark Reichel
http://www.reichelplesser.com

If all that turns out to be true, and the woman hasn’t been declared “armed and dangerous” (she is a “known stapler”), then this is a clear case of excessive force being used. Sounds like somebody trying to justify their job, or get a new promotion, to me.

I wonder if the “agents” will come up with some story and say they heard “flushing sounds from inside the house” or “possible paper shuffling” and thought “important documents were being destroyed” which would make their expedient and violent entry into the house necessary for this alleged white collar crime.

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