Law Enforcement Forced To Hand Over $41K It Seized From Businessman At Airport, Plus Another $10K In Legal Fees

from the felled-by-their-own-bullshittery dept

An unidentified Techdirt reader sends in the news that Arizona law enforcement is going to be handing over $10,000 to Madji Khaleq as a result of a failed asset forfeiture attempt. This would be in addition to the $41,870 the DEA already handed back to Khaleq — every cent of the cash federal agents seized from him at the Tucson airport.

Khaleq had a legitimate reason to be carrying $40K in cash on him.

Court documents show Khaleq told the Drug Enforcement Administration agent who seized the money that he owned a convenience store and check-cashing business in Denver, as well as a wholesale electronics distributorship in California. He said he came to Tucson to buy a smoke shop on South 12th Avenue, but the deal fell through.

But the DEA firmly believes cash = drugs even when there’s no evidence pointing towards illicit sources or uses for the funds, so it relieved Khaleq of his burdensome bankroll. Local law enforcement then swooped in to claim its part in the haul… only to return it when Khaleq lawyered up.

Khaleq challenged the seizure in Pima County Superior Court and the Pima County Attorney’s Office withdrew its request for forfeiture of the money in November.

The $10,000 in legal fees due Khaleq will come from the County Attorney’s Office and a Tucson-based counter-narcotics task force. Apparently the DEA has washed its hands of the whole affair after giving Khaleq the money it took from him.

The government is unhappy to be paying a drug trafficker an additional $10,000. Oh, yeah. It still believes Khaleq is involved in drug trafficking despite losing this lawsuit and 10 grand in discretionary spending.

In the March 10 stipulation of dismissal, Deputy County Attorney Edward Russo said the $10,000 is not an admission that Khaleq has shown he is “entitled to an award of attorney’s fees, costs or damages in this action.”


When asked if the County Attorney’s Office still suspected Khaleq of being involved in illicit activity, Johnson said: “Yes, we don’t just take money from people for no reason.”

The hell you don’t.

And that’s not the full extent of the government’s BS. During its fight to keep the uncharged Khaleq from recovering his money, the County Attorney’s Office attempted to keep Khaleq as far away from his money and his Fifth Amendment rights as possible.

Russo had asked Aragon on Jan. 11 if the county could present a report on a federal investigation purportedly of Khaleq without Khaleq or his attorney present.

[Judge Gus] Aragon denied the request, saying that to grant the request “would violate basic concepts of fairness and due process.”

Fortunately, a judge stepped in and prevented the government from further abusing Khaleq. Even when the government is clearly in the wrong, it still insists it’s right. No admission of wrongdoing despite losing badly enough that the plaintiff was awarded legal fees on top of his original funds, and law enforcement still insists Khaleq is involved in illegal activity despite his lack of a rap sheet and zero evidence in hand to support its claims.

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Comments on “Law Enforcement Forced To Hand Over $41K It Seized From Businessman At Airport, Plus Another $10K In Legal Fees”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It belongs to the government

Ah; but they didn’t license those bills to people; they traded them. Of course, in seizing them, they broke the contract, which means that the bills now officially belong to them. But that also means that the victims should get their time and real property back that was traded for those bills.

Anonymous Coward says:


Johnson said: “Yes, we don’t just take money from people for no reason.”

A truth without meaning. Sure you have a reason, and we know that reason is because you are greedy assholes that need a new tanning bed or slushie machine for the Department. One of these days some rookie is going to get a promotion because they seized enough cash to buy an in house dunkin donut shop!

Sure they are terrible reasons, but not the sort of reasons that Americans agree with.

So yea, we know there are reasons for what you do, we are just letting you know that we know… your reasons SUCK and are AGAINST THE CONSTITUTION!!!

That One Guy (profile) says:

Technically true

When asked if the County Attorney’s Office still suspected Khaleq of being involved in illicit activity, Johnson said: “Yes, we don’t just take money from people for no reason.”

Which is true only in the sense that the usual ‘We want the money that person is carrying’ is a reason, it’s just not one they’d be willing to admit to.

If you’re a greedy sociopath and have the right to steal any amount of cash someone happens to be carrying so long as you are willing to claim that it’s related to some vague ‘crime’, why wouldn’t you rob anyone that happens to commit the heinous crime of ‘carrying funds in sight of an officer’? Best case scenario, you get to keep the money and use it to buy something nice for yourself or the department, worst case you have to hand it back over, but in neither case are you paying or otherwise penalized in any way, so why not grab it all?

While it’s disgusting that even at this point they continue to insist that they did nothing wrong, it’s hardly surprising. They can’t exactly come out and admit that they stole the money just because they could after all, so of course they’re going to continue to insist that the judgement doesn’t matter, he was and continues to be guilty, they just had to return the money anyway.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Technically true

Maybe they actually believe everyone that is not with the government or law enforcement is a guilty criminal that needs to be harassed, put down or imprisoned.

What reality would we prefer. That the police are government are so deluded that think they can do no wrong. Or that they are being trained and taught to treat everyone like a foreign enemy.

David says:

Re: The noblest reason of all:

Of course law enforcement does not just take money from people for no reason. In this particular case, they do it for a reason fundamental to the human condition, the same reason Sir Edmund Percival Hillary gave for scaling the Mount Everest, his most notable achievement: “Because it is there”.

Yes, we can!

David says:

Zero evidence?

Next time he will be a terrorist suspect or drug dealer on one of the government lists. Let’s see how unreasonable it will then be to take all his cash. With a name like “Khaleq” he should not be fucking with organized crime. Not when they are on the payroll of the country he intends to continue living in.

Sometimes you have to choose. It’s either your “land of the free” or your “home of the brave”. He has picked “brave”. Let’s see how far it will get him.

powerKitten (profile) says:

Well, the County Attorney’s Office is technically correct, the best kind of correct!

When asked if the County Attorney’s Office still suspected Khaleq of being involved in illicit activity, Johnson said: “Yes, we don’t just take money from people for no reason.”

They did have a reason, that reason being that $41,870 is a lot of money and they want it to be theirs.

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