The Department of Justice and its underlings (the FBI and nearyl every law enforcement agency in the nation) have turned the ideal of asset forfeiture (defund drug dealers; return money to the defrauded, etc.) into a free-roaming, many-tentacled opportunistic beast, one that “liberates” any amount of “suspicious” cash from tourists, legitimate business owners or anyone else who just happens to have “too much” cash in their possession.
The IRS is in on this as well. The agency doesn’t need to prove anyone is guilty of anything before seizing assets. It just needs to feel that things aren’t quite right.
For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.
The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.
The person whose money has been seized isn’t necessarily guilty of anything. Hinders hasn’t been arrested, nor does there appear to be any sort of ongoing investigation. The IRS hasn’t hit Hinders with tax liens for unpaid taxes or subjected her to an audit. All it did was look at records for her deposits and decide that because none of them surpassed the $10,000 mark (which triggers automatic reporting), everything in the account must be somehow illegal.