According to court filings, a search and seizure operation was conducted last March 5 on three local businesses: Treasure on Pallets, Deal Zone, and CD Land. The operation was conducted on grounds of money laundering and racketeering.
All of the businesses are reportedly owned by a divorced couple residing in Lafayette. The couple is suspected of forgery, money laundering, theft, and perjury. Using these allegations, local authorities seized about $200,000 in cash together with other unspecified property from their businesses. Authorities have also requested a freeze on assets in their bank accounts that amount to at least $40,000. The forfeiture documents don’t say which of the alleged crimes are related to the property police want to seize. The Lafayette couple has so far not been charged with any offense.
This is not uncommon in Indiana. Even though the state’s forfeiture laws earned a B+ from libertarian nonprofit Institute for Justice, placing them higher than many other states, they is still some controversy. For instance, no conviction is required before authorities can perform a forfeiture; the legal threshold for seizing property only requires a preponderance of evidence that the property is connected to a crime. This means that people can have their property or funds taken without an arrest.
Property owners also have no right to legal representation, which means they have to enlist legal aid themselves if they decide to challenge the seizure. This discourages most property owners from pursuing their assets because the recovery process is a time-consuming and costly venture.
The redeeming factor of Indiana’s forfeiture laws is the strict requirement for how forfeiture revenue can be spent. Authorities don’t get to keep the profit from asset seizures like in other states; they have to donate the proceeds to a state school fund. Another positive thing about the current laws, advocates of reform say, is the requirement for authorities to provide reports and records of all forfeitures performed annually.
However, despite these requirements, a current loophole gives law enforcement agencies a way to profit from civil asset forfeiture. The law allows them a cut of the proceeds for their operation costs. Authorities abuse this provision by conducting more forfeitures to increase their operational funding. The system basically incentivizes asset seizures.
Under current Indiana law, cases like the recent $200,000 seizure are allowed to happen. Authorities can ask for approval for the forfeiture without even charging the property owners. Police don’t even need to outline their allegations in court documents to request approval.
Asset forfeiture can happen to anyone. If a state or federal agency has seized your rightful property using forfeiture, then you should consult an attorney. An experienced civil forfeiture lawyer can lay out your options and help you navigate the justice system as you attempt to get your property back.
Nationwide Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney
Has law enforcement taken your property using civil forfeiture? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and get the assistance of a nationwide federal civil asset forfeiture attorney.
Source: 4.5.21 Forfeiture lawsuit filed against owners of Deal Zone, other businesses.pdf