Out of control Feds raid family grocery store’s checking account over innocent bank deposits
The government should not be able to use civil forfeiture to take money from people who have done nothing wrong. And yet, that is exactly what is happening to Terry Dehko, the hardworking owner of Schott’s Supermarket, a small grocery store in Fraser, Michigan. He has run the store for more than 30 years with his daughter, Sandy Thomas.
Earlier this year, without warning, the federal government seized the store’s entire bank account—more than $35,000—and refuses to give it back. The government falsely accused Terry and Sandy of breaking anti-money-laundering laws by making frequent bank deposits of their store’s cash receipts. But they did nothing illegal and have been charged with no crime. In July, the government filed a lawsuit to keep the money, not against Terry and Sandy but against the cash itself, which is why the case has the bizarre title of United States v. $35,651.11.
Federal civil forfeiture law features an appalling lack of due process: there is no way to quickly get a ruling from a neutral decisionmaker about the validity of the government’s seizure, and therefore Terry and Sandy must do battle in federal court against the U.S. Department of Justice to prove themselves innocent and get their money back. Shockingly, the money taken by the government will be used to fund the budgets of the very federal agencies that seized the money in the first place.
On September 25, 2013, Terry and Sandy teamed up with the Institute for Justice to fight back. A victory for Terry and Sandy will vindicate not just their right to be free from abusive forfeiture tactics, but the right of every American not to have their property taken from them by government when they have done nothing wrong.Read more
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