Federal Agent: Using A Taped Box To Send Stuff Overnight Via FedEx Is Suspicious Behavior

from the nothing-more-evil-than-a-convenient-shipping-option dept

Here’s how we’re fighting the War on Drugs. Lots of stuff going on, but not much seems to be happening in terms of actually, you know, keeping drugs from ending up in buyers’ hands. The byproduct of the problem — the cash — is all anyone seems interested in.

As Brad Heath points out in his tweets referencing this in rem complaint, federal agents camp out at major air traffic hubs looking for nothing but cash. As we’ve covered here earlier, the DEA is actually paying TSA agents to search for cash and alert officers if any amount worth seizing rolls through checkpoints.

The same thing is happening in FedEx hubs. In this case, officers from the DHS, Indiana State Police, Indiana Metro PD all combined to stop some cash from traversing the country from Ohio to Arizona.

The filing lets us know what the government finds suspicious in terms of packaging and sending stuff around the country: everything. If you like using FedEx and their new boxes, but apply a bit too much tape, you might be a drug dealer. From the complaint [PDF]:

Based on information and experience, task force officers can easily identify suspicious packages with indicators, such as newly-bought boxes bought from the shipping company, overnight shipping, and excessive taping at the seams of the box.

Boxes, tape, and overnight shipping are literally what FedEx is known for. Yes, these officers uncovered a lot of suspicious stuff once they were IN the boxes — packages of cash wrapped in fabric softener sheets — but they needed something to justify the search of the boxes in the first place. I’m sorry, but “information and experience” asserting little more than what hundreds of FedEx customers do every day just doesn’t cut it.

Sure, they ran a dog around the boxes and it alerted, but cash will probably prompt alerts anyway, given how much of it has circulated close to drugs or has been used as a drug delivery device. (A “blind” drug sniff is mentioned later, suggesting the dog and boxes were tossed into the room without a handler. It’s a nice control but doesn’t mean much when there’s already been an alert with the handler present. If the dog had “failed” to detect drugs without the handler present, this simply would have been omitted from the warrant.)

The only other link to suspicion was the fact that the package was being shipped to Arizona from Ohio, but both the “To” and “From” labels contained the same Arizona address. God forbid you ship anything to or from Arizona — not if any drug interdiction teams are in the area:

Parcels 6920 and 7068 drew attention for other reasons: they were heavily taped and being shipped to Arizona, known by law enforcement as a source for illegal controlled substances…

This is same assertion made about several states and major cities. Everything has a drug nexus if you’re in the business of drug warring. The thing is, there’s a lot of innocent activity going on in these same cities and states, but it all looks suspicious through a drug interdiction lens.

In total, there’s a $108,000 being forfeited as suspected drug proceeds. The final nail in the evidentiary coffin is the background check on the package’s recipient. Not sure how it all adds up to drug dealing, but I guess all crimes are gateway crimes or whatever.

Richard Reyes has a criminal history for theft, assault causing bodily injury, and criminal mischief. In 2003, Richard Reyes was found guilty of one count of theft in case number M-0111051 (Tarrant Criminal County Court, Texas). In 2003, Richard Reyes was also found guilty of one count of assault causing bodily injury and one count of criminal mischief in case numbers 0610831 and 0610832 (Travis County Court, Texas).

I’m not saying Reyes isn’t a drug dealer. I’m saying this is pretty thin connective tissue if someone’s trying to prove the money came from the sale of drugs. But the evidentiary bar is so low law enforcement is probably going to get to keep this cash.

Then there’s the presence of a DHS agent. This allows Indiana law enforcement to profit from suspected criminal activity occurring outside of its jurisdiction. The package was sent from Ohio to Arizona but intercepted in Indianapolis. Dragging a federal agent along keeps the money from going into the coffers of coppers in the two states where drug dealing may actually be occurring. Handy that.

This is just one of dozens of similar litigation filed every year in the federal court system to take cash from people the government has no interest in arresting or charging. Somehow, seizing cash is supposed to cripple drug cartels. Seeing as civil forfeiture has experienced no serious income dips over the past 30 years, it’s safe to say this process is doing nothing but enriching government agencies who prefer cash to preventing crime.

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Comments on “Federal Agent: Using A Taped Box To Send Stuff Overnight Via FedEx Is Suspicious Behavior”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m going to take up a new hobby and send regular shipments using new fed-ex boxes, overzealously taped, to (and from) Arizona addresses that contain nothing but dog shit in ziplocks with a bit of patchoulli oil sprinkled in the boxes. Maybe include a cloud-enabled camera pointing toward the top of the box so I can record the rights abusers, er, I mean, law enforcement officers’ reactions.

Not a cheap hobby but super rewarding.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Fantasies to catch DEA mail-looters

Maybe a glitter-dispersal-device seasoned with money rigged to trigger upon opening or penetration (surprise!). It’s Eau de $20-bills that should trigger dog alerts assuming the dogs are alerting to a scent (Apparently currency-detecting dogs are a thing, though I suspect dogs in most cases are just trick-pony dogs who alert on command to do so.)

The joy is modern glitter is harder to get out of uniforms than chocolate creme.

Curiously, new boxes don’t generally need their edges taped. It’s old boxes with decaying edges that need them reinforced…unless you’re shipping stuff nearing the box’s weight limit.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Oooh nexus to drugs, take the money, do not pass go...

…don’t forget the $200.

Is there anyplace in the US that cannot be claimed to be a source for illegal controlled substances? Careful where you live?.

All the highways have been declared drug conduits. Careful how you travel.

Field test kits test powdered sugar as cocaine. Careful what you eat.

Having cash means you’re a drug dealer, but don’t think your credit/debit cards are safe either. Careful how you spend.

Is there anything left that does not have a nexus to drugs?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I honestly would love for them to do this to a Judge without knowing it was a Judge.
It really is time it happens to those so far removed form the reality of whats really happening so they can see how much of an injustice it really is.

Drugs are bad!!!!!!!
Funny how they rarely find the drugs they claim flow like water from all of these drug hubs, but manage to rack in cash.

How can you tell a cop from a mafia member?
The mafia member is way more polite when robbing you & is less likely to murder you because dead men don’t pay.

dadtaxi says:

Any false positives there bud?

"Based on information and experience, task force officers can easily identify suspicious packages with indicators . . . "

Yea right. I’ll bet the warrant doesn’t give any indication how many times this exact same "information and experience" did NOT result in finding any "criminal" activity.

Isn’t about time the judicial system had lessons on what is considered good standards of evidence, and dropped the junk science?

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s like some warped Jeff Foxworthy routine…

If you use too much tape on your package, you might be a drug dealer.
If you send your package overnight, you might be a drug dealer.
If you drive too fast, you might be a drug dealer.
If you drive too slow, you might be a drug dealer.
If you disrespect a police officer, you might be a drug dealer.
If you’re too respectful, you might be a drug dealer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Not necessarily — FedEx ships hazmats (or Dangerous Goods, to use the international term, which is also what the Express side of the business uses) pretty routinely, although they only ship certain classes of hazmat, and the rules on how to package and document them are fairly strict (as they should be, as undeclared/mispackaged hazmats can and have brought down aircraft). (There’s also a fairly steep fee rider on the price of the shipment.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I gotta wonder whether it would make sense for drug smugglers to ship that way. Seems crazy—more documentation etc.—but maybe the DEA is less likely to check, on the assumption nobody would be that crazy. (On a similar theme, security experts have noted that PreCheck et al. are a boon to terrorists.)

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Loose glitter in the box optional

Nah, you really want to mess with them print out a copy of the Constitution and have that in the box. Given how they treat what’s in it that would almost certainly be seen as far more repulsive to them than any amount of dog shit, and it’ll be a hell of a lot less disgusting for you to put in the box.

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

At what...


"In total, there’s a $108,000 being forfeited as suspected drug proceeds"

Federal agencies, State Police, dogs, halting FedEX hubs from shipping…

They crow that they grabbed a hundred thousand. But what did the taxpayer PAY for that hundred thousand? Three million? Five?

Can’t stand these types of "successes". See it all the time – "after a seven month investigation, thirty thousand dollars of drug money was seized!" NYC Detectives make over a hundred grand a year – and there’s usually a minimum of three of them on any such "investigation", along with however many street cops and SWAT they get involved.

That thirty grand paid for about half a day’s worth of their combined salaries.

Same story here, just a slightly larger amount "saved"…

stderric (profile) says:

Based on information and experience, task force officers can easily identify suspicious packages with indicators, such as newly-bought boxes bought from the shipping company, overnight shipping, and excessive taping at the seams of the box.

Many shippers of questionable materials (based on information and experience… or 10 minutes on Reddit) are also aware of these indicators, and avoid them by using old boxes, taping the seams from the inside, and/or vacuum packing the contents with a run of the mill food sealer from walmart.

Law Enforcement Corollary: Old, lightly taped, odorless boxes are highly suspicious and worthy of investigation.

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They re-tape them and put a "Damaged in Handling" sticker on the box.

If you want to be SURE they’ll open a package, insure it for more than $5,000. I’ve shipped several with that much or more on them, and not one of them arrived without having been re-sealed. Thankfully, the "inspectors" were having an off day, so they didn’t steal any contents. Which also meant I couldn’t file a claim for them "damaging" the boxes.

JoeDetroit (profile) says:

This has been going on for many years

As far back as 2010 I know someone who led a team at FedEX, UPS, & LAX. At FedEX & UPS they just stood over the conveyors & grabbed boxes they say looked suspicious & got cash & dope everytime. At LAX they just grabbed people they saw as suspicious & got loads of cash & drugs. He claimed they knew right away who to grab.

Many millions confiscated. From what I was told & I could be wrong, if you need to ship cash or something, use USPS. They need a warrant to open USPS packages.

WIth dope they would literally dress as FedEX or UPS & deliver the package. Once the door was open they would look inside & look for anything (paraphernalia or smell) to give probable cause to raid with no warrant. As one can imagine it doesn’t take much.

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