DEA Seized $3.2 Billion in Cash From People Never Under Investigation – Justice Dept

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asset forfeiture

The US Drug Enforcement Administration seized $3.2 billion in cash over a 10-year period from people who were never under criminal investigation, according to a Justice Department inspector general report. Agents confiscated vehicles, jewelry, and houses, but mostly cash.

“For the majority of the seizures we examined, the department could not verify that the seizure could advance or was related to a criminal investigation,” said Michael Horowitz, Inspector General, Justice Department in a video accompanying the 74-page report, released on Wednesday.

Inspectors examined 100 out of 80,000 cash seizures where the DEA took in $4.15 billion in cash during cases conducted between fiscal years 2007 to 2016. The seizures were made without a court-issued warrant and without the presence of narcotics — a potential violation of the 4th Amendment. Of those, 85 were stops at transportation facilities or along highways. The smallest seizure involved $3,000 confiscated at an airport.

Only six of those 85 cases were prompted by pre-existing intelligence about a specific drug crime, and most were associated with “cold consent encounters” where officers approached people they suspected of involvement in drug trafficking and asked their permission to conduct a search.

“Most of the seizures we examined occurred at transportation facilities and were initiated based on the observations and immediate judgement of DEA agents and state and local task force officers, without preexisting intelligence of a specific drug crime,” said Horowitz.

Responding to the findings, Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco said the inspector general took a sample that was not representative of broader Justice Department practices and drew faulty conclusions based on mistakenly analyzed data, according to Washington Post.

Blanco wrote that 81 of the 100 seizures “were likely” tied to a criminal investigation and “were not the sorts of seizures that pose risks to civil liberties.”

The inspector general’s office has in the past criticized this practice as being prone to racial profiling. Reports in the Chicago Times, the Washington Post, and USA Today have exposed concerns about the size of seizures, the lack of court involvement, and issues of potential racial profiling.

The DEA was the focus of the investigation as it is responsible for 80 percent of the Department’s cash seizures. While the report acknowledged that the DOJ views asset forfeiture as “an important tool to reduce the financial incentives for criminal activity,” it found the agency was lax in its oversight and did not require training for local and state agents even though they were given the same authority as federal agents.

“While the factual situations vary from case to case, such differences in treatment demonstrate how seizure decisions can appear arbitrary, which in turn can fuel public perception that law enforcement is not using this powerful authority legitimately,” the report said.

Over the past 10 years, the DOJ’s Asset Forfeiture program has yielded over $28 billion. The department uses the proceeds to compensate victims of associated crimes and to fund other forfeiture-related activities, such as payments to local and state law enforcement through equitable sharing.

“For instance, the Department will use forfeited assets associate with Bernie Madoff’s crimes to compensate his victims. The Department anticipates making additional payments of $4 billion in this matter, bringing the total amount of victim compensation to over $8 billion by the close of the Madoff compensation process,” according to the report.

Blanco added that the report fails to acknowledge the scale of the problem the program is intended to combat “that is, the staggering volume of illicit proceeds (often cash) that are generated globally and which criminal actors move and conceal in increasingly creative ways.”

Blanco wrote that it was difficult to construct a system that linked seizures to specific criminal investigations, but officials were working to create a new system.

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  • Mad Lou

    Land of The Free…..LOL! BWAHAHAHAHAH!


    Terrorists? Pigs? Criminals? Robbers? Anti-American Thugs? Yes. Sadly, yes.

    Every day it just gets worse and worse in this shithole nation of ignorant brainwashed fucking sheep. Right, go back to your InstaFaceTwit and Netflix. It’s your safe place, right? Reality sux.

    • Did they mention that the majority of those searched for illegal drugs are stopped for illegal driving, frequently of defective vehicles? Maybe Timothy McVeigh is still alive and teaching people how to transport illegal drugs.

    • StephaniePeterson11

      > …………………….

    • Rey d’Tutto

      InstaYouTwitFace is my new moniker for “antisocial media”. If I “friend” you, I likely spew the awesome 5% of my life and hide the 95% shitshow of reality. YouTube, Instagram, Fakebook, and the Twit-verse are irrelevant to survival, but offer a wondrous distraction from the nihilistic frothings of modern mass media, via radio, tv, web-life, or any other means of enforcing the narrative.

  • What else would you expect from an agency that lists marijuana on the same schedule as heroin?

  • randy wellman

    there was a story a few weeks ago that said the cops have stolen MORE from citizens than the CRIMINALS! yikes…. what a monster we’ve created.

    • Smarty

      We didn’t create it Randy. Therein lies the problem…. It was created by criminals and due to the fact that we’re vastly outnumbered by sleeping sheep, a lot of us are just along for the ride….

  • Scrollock

    “Blanco wrote that it was difficult to construct a system that linked
    seizures to specific criminal investigations, but officials were working
    to create a new system.”
    Oh, I’ll bet they are. Wonder if their “new system” will create a crime to justify the seizure? Actually, I think all it has to create is the suspicion of a crime, which is what they base their current seizures on. “Hey, if it wasn’t crime related, how could the perp possibly have that much money?” They’ll probably find a way to link their computer system to smaller, local systems that will gladly be the “source” of the “investigation” in return for a cut. Let’s face it, it’s hard to construct a system that links seizures to specific crimes when no crime has been committed. Doesn’t mean they can’t create an “investigation” though. NO due process whatsoever. I’m beginning to think our legal system doesn’t even know what the term means.


    Funny how when we take things that do NOT belong to us, it’s a crime!
    When they do it it’s seizures!! Next time someone robs a bank, they should
    say ” I’m here to seize your funds” instead of ” I’m here to rob your bank”!
    Clearly one is legal whereas the other is not!!

    • Kraut9

      Good logic that makes sense !!

    • gato felix

      It’s almost like when the U.S. uses the term “freedom” when invading other countries, the military is there to free the people of there lives and free the invaded country of there natural resources!! Double talk at it’s finest!!

    • Talcum X

      I’m here for your asset forfeiture!

  • celticreeler

    States audit these sorts of activities. Look up your state auditor’s reports.

    You may be surprised at what you find.

    Local governments are being co-opted by the federal agency. They tell themselves, “We are going to fund X, which was too expensive for us in the past, and the ‘bad guys’ are paying for it.”

    If there aren’t convictions much less charges, they need to prove that this $ was taken from anyone ‘bad.’

  • archer

    Nothing should be seized without trial.

    • gato felix

      While that might sound like a good idea, I don’t think so, the “justice” system is in on the racket, one relies on the other for it’s survival!!

  • GAZOO2

    All drug laws are unconstitutional.

  • John Mercer

    Civil forfeture laws are totally bogus, People don’t trust banks so they keep money OUT OF THE BANK. Now we have to worry about law enforcement agencies stealing our money if we simply decide to keep cash for an emergency. The government is full of crooks and now it’s filtered down to the people who are supposed to keep us safe and instead are to be feared.
    I have contacted my local rep about repealing this bogus law and my pleas fell on deaf ears. Civil forfeiture laws are blatantly unconstitutional and all should be repealed. If you want to steal my money, prove i did something wrong in a court of law…. fucking cowards.

  • digriff

    NEVER let a cop search your vehicle or enter your home without a warrant. PERIOD.

    • gato felix

      You’re right they’ve been know to plant evidence!!!