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Articles Tagged with Civil Asset Forfeiture

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michigan-1191024_1920-300x200Yesterday, the Michigan Senate passed a bill which would require a criminal conviction before law enforcement can permanently take an individual’s assets using civil asset forfeiture.

This is the latest attempt by the legislature to reform civil asset forfeiture laws in the state. Last year, a similar bill passed the House but was never voted on in the Senate. Another bill introduced last year was intended to ensure police officers had adequate training when it came to seizing property. A third bill would have put local forfeiture processes under the domain of state law, making asset forfeiture consistent across the state.
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jacksonville-77804_1920-300x179A Jacksonville, Florida brother and sister have been sentenced for their role in a scheme to illegally employ undocumented immigrants in construction work. Their scheme involved avoiding millions of dollars in workers’ compensation insurance and payroll tax.

Fanny Melina Zelaya-Mendez, age 39, and Roger Omar Zelaya-Mendez, age 34, ran various shell companies which provided workers to contractors and subcontractors. They used these companies to hire and pay hundreds of undocumented immigrants. Since the contractors and subcontractors paid the workers through these shell companies, they were therefore able to avoid being responsible for making sure that the workers were authorized to work in the country, that the workers had workers’ compensation insurance coverage, and that the appropriate payroll taxes were being paid.
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squad-car-1209719_1920-300x162Last week, I reported on the state of civil asset forfeiture in South Carolina—that between 2014-16, law enforcement agencies seized property and cash worth at least $17 million with little oversight on how those assets were taken or used.

With 95 percent of the proceeds from civil asset forfeitures going to fund law enforcement, it is clear there are incentives for police in South Carolina to carry out civil forfeitures. This is known to critics of civil asset forfeiture as “policing for profit.” Last week, I reported on gatherings where officers could earn prizes for having the most property seizures.
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u-1604153_1920-300x228When Isiah Kinloch of North Charleston in South Carolina was recovering in hospital from a head injury he sustained while fending off a robber, law enforcement searched his apartment. The found $1,800 in cash and an ounce of cannabis. By the time Kinloch was released, police had taken his cash.

Law enforcement charged Kinloch with “Possession with Intent to Distribute.” Kinloch said the cash came from his job as a tattoo artist and that he was using marijuana to help him with the pain he suffered after a car accident. The police eventually dropped all charges against Kinloch, but they never returned his money.
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travel-778338_1920-300x200In February 2017, Ashley Tami Renee Phillips was stopped at Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport in Jackson, Mississippi by a Transport Security Administration officer. The TSA had discovered Phillips was carrying $30,000 in cash in her checked luggage. He seized the cash.

Law enforcement attempted to take her cash using civil asset forfeiture. This is the procedure where police may take an individual’s money or property if they suspect it is involved in a crime. In Phillips’ case, the Jackson Airport Police Department brought in their drug dog to test the cash. When the dog detected narcotics on the money, the police had found their justification to take the cash. This is despite a study demonstrating that more than 75 percent of currency in the U.S. has cocaine residue on it.
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