Many Americans have been alarmed by rampant corruption and political abuse at the FBI. Some of the misconduct is so unequivocal, even liberal newspapers are documenting it.
According to a report in the LA Times, agents brazenly lied to a California judge in order to get a search warrant that they improperly used to search through hundreds of people’s personal belongings — and seize millions of dollars in assets.
FBI lied to steal, search property
The misconduct was exposed in a class-action Fourth Amendment lawsuit from hundreds of customers of a company, U.S. Private Vaults. The FBI asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Steve Kim for a search warrant to raid the Beverly Hills store, which provided anonymous deposit boxes.
Agents suspected the now-shuttered company, which has entered a plea deal, was tied to drug dealing and money laundering.
The warrant that Kim signed did not authorize a criminal search or forfeiture of customers’ safety deposit boxes — but the FBI took matters into their own hands. They had secretly been planning to seize the entire contents of any box with more than $5,000 in assets.
Agents walked away with $86 million in cash, in addition to watches, gold, and other valuables. In the process, they took pictures of sensitive materials like passwords, credit cards, a prenup, immigration and vaccine records, bank statements, a will, and even cremated human remains.
“The government did not know what was in those boxes, who owned them, or what, if anything, those people had done,” Robert Frommer, a lawyer for the class-action plaintiffs, said.
Another FBI scandal?
Evidence of the FBI’s misbehavior was unsealed by a judge over the objections of prosecutors, who say they had no obligation to be transparent about “how later actions, such as criminal investigations against boxholders or forfeiture of box contents, would play out.”
Local police departments have sought shares of the seized money, Jessie Murray, the chief of the FBI’s asset forfeiture unit in Los Angeles, said. Some of the victims have regained their property but others decided the legal fight wasn’t worth it. Those who walked away may have been right.
One man who eventually got his stuff back was maligned by prosecutors as a criminal fraudster and drug dealer before his legal nightmare ended. He said he had sought the security of a private deposit box during the 2020 George Floyd riots.
“Protests and riots were the normal news, banks had been boarding up their windows, and emergency alerts were prompting people to stay indoors after curfew,” the man said.
Is this America, or a former Soviet republic?