The website Military Justice has reported that a lawsuit is accusing the FBI and a U.S. attorney’s office of lying to a judge in order to obtain a search warrant.
The case involves a 2021 raid in which agents seized the contents of 1,400 safe-deposit boxes being stored at a U.S. Private Vaults outlet in Beverly Hills, California.
FBI planned to permanently seize valuables found in safe boxes
According to the Los Angeles Times, newly unsealed court documents showing that FBI agents rifled through the personal belongings of those who had rented boxes at the location despite not knowing their identity.
While a warrant to carry out the search was granted by Magistrate Judge Steve Kim, a class action lawsuit which has been filed by the boxes’ owner notes that an important detail was left out of the government’s application.
Government lawyers failed to disclose the FBI’s intention to permanently seize anything worth $5,000 or more that its agents came across while conducting the search.
The FBI ultimately took roughly $86 million in valuables from unidentified box holders, asserting that the assets were linked to unspecified crimes.
Box owners not told what crimes they had been accused of
“The government did not know what was in those boxes, who owned them, or what, if anything, those people had done,” the Times quoted Robert Frommer as saying in a court filing. Frommer is representing 400 of the box owners in a class action lawsuit.
“That’s why the warrant application did not even attempt to argue there was probable cause to seize and forfeit box renters’ property,” he added.
Military Times noted that the group Institute for Justice is assisting box holders Paul and Jennifer Snitko in a lawsuit of their own.
“Paul and Jennifer Snitko are model citizens,” Institute for Justice said in a statement. “Neither has ever been in trouble with the law.”
“Yet federal investigators broke open their private security deposit box, searched through all the contents, and seized their property,” the statement continued.
It then detailed how federal agents absconded with the couple’s belongings, including watches that belonged to Paul Snitko’s father without even bothering to inform them what crimes they had been accused of.