California Couple Take Legal Action After FBI Seized $40K from Bank

    Federal Bureau Of Investigation emblem is seen on the headquarters building in Washington D.C., United States, on October 20, 2022. (Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

    *A California couple is speaking out about how the FBI seized $40K in savings they had in a deposit box at the Beverly Hills, California branch of US Private Vaults. 

    The Feds reportedly seized more than $86 million in cash, jewelry, and gold from 1,400 safe-deposit boxes amid a money laundering investigation. The customers whose accounts were impacted by the March 2021 raid were not suspected of any crimes, according to court documents obtained by Insider.

    Linda Martin said the agency has not explained why it refuses to return her money. She and her husband Reggie Martin have teamed with the nonprofit Institute for Justice for a class-action lawsuit.

    “The FBI took my savings nearly two years ago but has never told me why,” Linda Martin said in a press release. “It’s been a confusing and frustrating process from the day my money was taken. No one should have to go through this.”

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    Civil forfeiture makes it legal to seize your cash, car, house, or other possessions if you are suspected of criminal activity. Linda Martin’s “criminal activity” was storing her cash in a facility that the FBI raided. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/07OcodbOVO

    — People for Liberty (@people4liberty) March 15, 2023

    As a result of the Beverly Hills raid, US Private Vaults shut down and reportedly pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder drugs.

    “They were just supposed to identify owners so they could claim their property, but the FBI instead acted on its months-old plan to search and try to forfeit the contents of any box worth more than $5,000,” the Institute for Justice said in a statement. 

    The FBI reportedly sent forfeiture notices to the hundreds of people affected in the raid and reportedly informed them that “the government wanted to take their property forever, even though they were not named in the indictment against the company.”

    In Linda Martin’s lawsuit, filed on March 7, the FBI is alleged to have violated the Fifth Amendment, which requires government officials to provide specific reasons why forfeitures are appropriate.

    “The government shouldn’t get to take your property if it can’t tell you what you did wrong. Using civil forfeiture, the government decides for itself whether to take and try to keep property, even when it doesn’t suspect the owners of any crime,” said Bob Belden, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice.

    He added: “Then, the FBI sends copy-and-paste forfeiture notices that fail to tell owners anything about why it is trying to take their property. That’s not only wrong – it’s unconstitutional.”

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