A Pennsylvania family has filed a lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) after the agency seized $82,373 in cash at Pittsburgh airport because it considers large amounts of cash to be “suspicious.”
The money, which was stored in a Tupperware container, was Terrence Rolin’s life savings. The 79-year-old retired railroad engineer was worried about keeping so much cash on hand, so he asked his daughter, Rebecca Brown, to open a joint bank account and deposit the money.
According to news sources, the daughter was to catch a flight to Boston from Pittsburgh International Airport the next day on August 26. She didn’t have time to stop at a bank and deposit the cash, so she confirmed on a government website that it’s legal to carry any amount of cash on a domestic flight before she went to the airport.
However, minutes before departure, a DEA agent met her at the gate and questioned her about the money, which had showed up on a security scan. The agent purportedly demanded to speak to her father to corroborate her story, but the father wasn’t able to verify all the details.
The agent told the daughter that their stories didn’t match and seized the cash, sources indicate. The daughter claims she was never told if she or her father were suspected of committing any crime, and neither has been charged. She wasn’t carrying any contraband or drugs in her bag, and neither she nor her father have criminal records.
The family have filed a class action lawsuit in Pennsylvania against the DEA and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), claiming the agencies violated their Fourth Amendment rights, which bans unlawful search and seizures without probable cause. The suit seeks the return of the money and an injunction against the practice.
“Flying with any amount of cash is completely legal, but once again we see government agents treating American citizens like criminals,” an Institute for Justice attorney told the press. “You don’t forfeit your constitutional rights when you try to board an airplane.”
According to the daughter, her father adopted the habit of saving money in cash from her grandparents, who mistrusted banks after living through the Great Depression. She alleges that the loss of the money has prevented her father for getting medical treatment and fixing up his vehicle, which is his only mean of transportation. Her father is now forced to live on retirement benefits from his job.
DEA agents and other law enforcement agencies have the power to seize and auction of cash and assets linked to criminal activity using a process called civil asset forfeiture. The practice is used by state and federal agencies to confiscate the illicit proceeds of criminal organizations. It has come under increased scrutiny in recent years, with civil liberty groups arguing that police are abusing the system to fatten their budgets.
South Florida Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney
If you are involved in a civil asset forfeiture case, then you should hire an attorney. 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.