A Tampa-based trucking company has filed a lawsuit after federal authorities purportedly seized more than $181,000 in cash from an employee who was flying to Cleveland to buy new trucks for their fleet.
FGL Transport, Inc. filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The lawsuit stems from an incident that occurred in September 2019, when the company tried to send employee Boris Nulman to Cleveland with $191,500 in cash to purchase four trucks for the company’s fleet.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents at Tampa International Airport took Nulman in for questioning after discovering the cash in his carry-on bag. Authorities then seized most of the money and left him with only $10,000.
FGL Transport filled out a “verified claim form” in an attempt to reclaim the seized cash, but they were informed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection several weeks later that the agency intended to seize $159,950 because the money was believed to be tied to “specified illegal activity” such as the manufacture, sale or distribution of a controlled substance.
The lawsuit notes that there is a discrepancy between the $159,950 federal agents admit to seizing and the $181,500 that FGL Transport claims was actually seized. The company says they have documentation proving the amount taken from Nulman.
The suit also argues that it isn’t uncommon to purchase trucking equipment with cash and that the cash was obtained legally. FGL Transport contends it proved the cash was not tied to illegal activity and claims authorities violated Nulman’s Fourth Amendment right against warrantless searches and seizures.
Another warrantless seizure at an airport was reported on January 21 at Pittsburgh International Airport. The family of Terrence Rolin filed a lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the TSA after federal agents seized $82,373 in cash from Rolin’s daughter, Rebecca Brown, because they considered the cash to be “suspicious.”
Rolin’s gave Brown the money to deposit in a joint bank account on August 25. However, Brown had to catch a flight to Pittsburgh the next day and didn’t have time to go to the bank. She reportedly confirmed on a government website that it is legal to carry any amount of cash on a domestic flight before going to the airport.
According to the lawsuit, a DEA agent met Brown at the gate minutes before departure to question her about the money, which had shown up on a security scan. The agent called Rolin to have him corroborate his daughter’s story, but the 79-year-old retiree wasn’t able to do so. The cash was seized even though neither Brown nor her father were suspected of or charged with any crime.
The lawsuit claims the DEA and TSA violated Brown’s Fourth Amendment rights, and seeks the return of the seized money.
Federal agents have the power to seize cash and assets connected to illegal activity using a process called civil asset forfeiture. The practice is used by both state and federal agencies to confiscate the illicit profits of criminal organizations. Asset forfeiture has come under increased scrutiny recently, with critics arguing that law enforcement agencies are abusing the system to pad their budgets.
South Florida Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney
Have your assets been seized by state or federal agents through civil asset forfeiture? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and work with one of South Florida’s most experienced civil asset forfeiture attorneys.