Yet Another Cost of the Drug War

Stupid bank structuring laws that allow the government to seize your property without due process if they don't like the size or pattern of your cash deposits.  All in the name of going after drug dealers.

I run a cash business.  It is not at all unusual that we might have $9000-ish a week deposits through the summer months at certain large locations.  If some bored Fed were to decide tomorrow that these looked suspicious, they could seize all my bank accounts, effectively bankrupting my business, and then force me to try to get my money back in the courts (where the burden of proof is on me, not the government).  All the while with a set of incentives such that the Feds get to keep any of my money for their own departmental use if they thwart my efforts to get it back.  And all without any need to go to a judge to sign anything or even offer a shred of proof that I am engaged in an illegal activity.  Making deposits just under $10,000 is effectively a crime in and of itself, and the only thing that protects me from abuse is my hope for the goodwill of the Feds that they won't abuse their power.

This is the kind of Faustian bargain we have made for ourselves in the war on drugs, and it needs to end.

  • PermaLurker

    It's enough to make one consider ditching the bank altogether, buying one's very own vault and hiring a security guard to keep an eye on it. That would certainly be cheaper than losing everything to public thieves.

  • http://www.newatlantean.com Robert Hewes

    My friend's mom is going off to prison in January over structuring charges. It's horrifying how easily the government can come in and take everything you own, just because it wants to.

  • IGotBupkis, Poking Fun At President Downgrade For 4 Years and Counting...

    >>> That would certainly be cheaper than losing everything to public thieves.

    I'm sure there's some law against that, too. Any effort to operate a cash-only business is treated as an attempt to launder drug money, just on the principle that it is capable of it.

    Cash may be "legal tender for all debts, public and private" but only when you don't take that claim seriously.

    That might offer an interesting avenue to sue the Fed, but they'd probably just have the Treasury Dept. remove the words.

  • Mark2

    Hah, laws like these would be on the books anyway, to "prevent money laundering" from all sorts of alleged nefarious activities. Drugs are just a small part. You really think stopping the drug war would stop these departments from trying seizing your money? Hah!

  • me

    Wait, wouldn't a 'bargain' (faustian or otherwise) involve some form of advantage for those of us not laughing all the way to the bank with the money they've just seized?

  • morganovich

    what next? driving 64 in a 65 is "speed structuring" because you'd really like to go faster if you could so you get ticketed and your car seized?

  • marco73

    Just saw the news that the farmer will settle with the Feds by giving up about 1/2 of the $62K that was seized. The farmer needs at least some of his money back to stay in business.
    So the Feds spent piles of agency time and money grinding up a Maryland dairy farmer to score $30K.
    Zero evidence of any drug trafficking or money laundering. There is your federal government at work.

  • me

    Already exists - cops can claim anything they want on speeding tickets, in the end it's their word against yours. Depending on the luck of the draw, you might get your ticket reduced, but speed limit enforcement is essentially the modern version of highway robbery.

  • js4strings

    I also find it ironic that you cannot make more than 6 transfers from your personal savings account per month, because someone somewhere may launder money. My bank actually charged me $12 because I made one too many. I'm surprised the Feds didn't swoop in an arrest me for giving my daughter that $50 extra dollars for gas money.

  • NL_

    Even if they legalized heroin and meth tomorrow, the feds would still claim this sort of power for the war on terror and for monitoring for bank misbehavior. Anti-terror and anti-wealth in the same provision means this power is pretty politically entrenched. The main way it could be undone is if it's used aggressively against prominent Republicans and prominent Democrats (the same reason the Independent Counsel law finally lapsed - it pestered the GOP for years then pestered Clinton).

  • John David Galt

    If it were me, I would enclose with each deposit a disclaimer along the lines of "This is one of a series of deposits that will probably exceed $10,000 this year. Please report it to the Treasury Department. It is part of the gross business receipts of [company]." That would seem to blow away the Injustice Dept's rationale-of-the-week for these thefts.

  • http://blog.cutthemalarkey.com Vic Kelley

    Is this a petition? Where can I sign it? Those seizure/forfeiture laws are a disgrace. So too are conspiracy laws. Hope you have never talked to your wife/partner or even friends about how you do business because if you have and you get busted well then that's a conspiracy and all of you are going down for it.

  • http://hertzlinger.blogspot.com Joseph Hertzlinger

    Maybe we need a constitutional amendment. It could read:

    No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, AND WE REALLY MEAN IT THIS TIME!

  • me

    LOL. Spot on, Joseph.

  • feeblemind

    Give our ruling masters an incentive to steal our property and that is exactly what they will do.

    If you haven't seen it, you may find this interesting:

    Policing for profit:

    http://www.ij.org/images/pdf_folder/other_pubs/assetforfeituretoemail.pdf

    And this:

    Police confiscate $22 grand from motorist:

    http://www.newschannel5.com/story/18241221/man-loses-22000-in-new-policing-for-profit-case

    And this:

    "Caswell is fighting a move by the U.S. Department of Justice to take his motel under a law that allows for the forfeiture of properties connected to crimes. In Caswell’s case, the government is not claiming that Caswell committed any crimes, but says the motel should be shut down because of the drug-dealing that goes on among its guests."

    http://boston.cbslocal.com/2011/12/29/owner-fights-feds-attempt-to-seize-drug-motel/

  • chuck martel

    It's doubtful if the Gestapo even had this much power. So far the violence has been dispensed by only one party. That's unlikely to be the case forever.