Five Weeks After Being Sued, DEA Agrees To Return $82,000 It Stole From A Retiree
from the weird-how-that-works dept
Sometimes all it takes is a lawsuit and little bad press to make the federal government at least temporarily regret its thieving ways.
In January, the DEA was sued by Rebecca West and her father Terry Rolin after the agency lifted Rolin’s life savings — more than $82,000 — from West at the Pittsburgh airport. The supposedly travel safety-focused TSA agents saw the cash in West’s carry-on luggage and decided to notify State Troopers and the DEA. After a few extended conversations with West, the DEA decided to seize the money under the theory that a person with this much cash on their person must have obtained it illegally.
The Institute for Justice — which is representing West in her lawsuit — reports the DEA has suddenly and mysteriously decided the money agents took from West was probably honest money after all.
Terry Rolin’s life savings of $82,373 will finally be returned to him, nearly six months after it was wrongfully seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from his daughter Rebecca Brown as she traveled through Pittsburgh International Airport to her home in Boston. Without offering any apology for the harm caused by confiscating Terry’s life savings for six months, the DEA informed the Institute for Justice (IJ) via letter that: “After further review, a decision has been made to return the property.”
This looks like someone further up the org chart saw the bad press and lawsuit generated by this suspicionless seizure and told someone to get the suddenly tainted money the hell out of the DEA’s coffers. The letter [PDF] is 99% formality, explaining nothing about the original seizure. It simply states that if Rolin owes any money to the government, the government will deduct it from the $82,373 the DEA deducted in whole from West’s luggage six months ago.
The DEA could have done this at any point before being served with a lawsuit. Presumably this return of Rolin’s legally-obtained life savings is being done to moot as much of his lawsuit as possible. It’s not going to work. The lawsuit continues, with the Institute for Justice and its clients hoping to secure a win that might force the TSA to focus on travel safety (rather than cash) and the DEA to actually provide suspicion that’s far more reasonable than whatever excuse agents are currently using to steal money from travelers.
“We are glad that Terry will get his money back, but it is shameful that it takes a lawsuit and an international outcry for the federal government to do the right thing,” said IJ Senior Attorney Dan Alban. “We know that this routinely happens to other travelers at airports across the United States. Terry and Rebecca are going to fight on until TSA and DEA end their unconstitutional and unlawful practices of seizing cash from air travelers without probable cause or reasonable suspicion.”
Hey, DEA: if you don’t like being sued, maybe don’t do stuff that will get you sued. I mean, that’s the kind of logic you law enforcement types understand, right? Don’t break the law, etc. Asset forfeiture is hot, unconstitutional garbage. You can’t cripple drug lords by robbing random people of their life savings. But if the DEA actually went about the business of dismantling the drug trade, it might move resources away from its “taking cash from travelers” outreach program. And that would apparently be unacceptable.