Leaked ICE forfeiture manual instructs agents to seize houses if they contain a phone implicated in crime

ICE have become house-flippers, using the notorious and discredited "civil asset forfeiture" process to steal houses from people they say were involved in crime, then selling the houses to fund their operations, and more seizures of more houses.

A leaked 2010 Asset Forfeiture Handbook -- verified by ICE to be fully up to date -- sets out an entire playbook for finding the most expensive houses that can possibly be seized, then working backwards to find an excuse to target the people living there. For example, if there's "a telephone located on the property was used to plan or discuss criminal activity" then ICE can take the whole house.

Though multiple DHS agencies contribute to the Treasury forfeiture fund — such as Customs and Border Protection and the Secret Service — ICE leads the way both in seizures feeding into the fund and in payments doled out to state and local law enforcement. According to a 2014 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, from 2003 to 2013, DHS poured roughly $3.6 billion into the Treasury’s forfeiture fund. From 2007 on, the report found, ICE was “consistently” responsible for “approximately 50 percent or more of total forfeiture revenues by DHS components.” Over the 2003 to 2013 period, the GAO noted, “equitable sharing payments constituted the largest” obligation in the Treasury’s forfeiture fund, with approximately $1.2 billion paid out to “a range of state and local law enforcement agencies across the country — as well as other federal agencies and foreign entities — that participated in law enforcement efforts resulting in forfeitures.”

“Among the three DHS components making equitable sharing payments, ICE made up over 90 percent of total DHS obligations for equitable sharing payments,” the report added. “State and local agencies accounted for the majority of sharing recipients, and accounted for an average of 96 percent of total obligations for equitable sharing payments from fiscal years 2010 through 2012.” State and local law enforcement officials who spoke to the government accountability researchers said the arrangement had “improved the relationship between federal agencies and their offices,” with officials adding that the “funds are needed by their agencies and have allowed them to purchase equipment such as bulletproof vests, weapons, mobile computers, and police station security cameras.”

LEAKED ICE GUIDE OFFERS UNPRECEDENTED VIEW OF AGENCY’S ASSET FORFEITURE TACTICS [Ryan Devereaux and Spencer Woodman/The Intercept]

(via Techdirt)

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