Hey, remember how Bill Clinton doubled down on the War on Drugs, perfecting Reagan's haphazard and shoddily made race-war into a well-oiled incarceration machine that turned America into the world's greatest incarcerator, a nation that imprisoned black people at a rate that exceeded Apartheid-era South Africa? Read the rest
It took four years, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has finally ruled in favor of 72 year old grandmother Elizabeth Young, whose house was seized by the Philadelphia District Attorney under asset forfeiture rules when her son was caught selling $140 worth of marijuana to undercover agents.
Under civil forfeiture rules, cops and DAs get to steal property suspected of being the proceeds of a crime, then they sue the inanimate objects. The owners of the objects can hire lawyers to represent their property, while the taxpayers foot the bill for the state's side of the suit. If the government wins, it gets to keep the property or sell it and pocket the proceeds.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court blasted the DA for the seizure and reminded the state's lawyers and cops that they can only invoke civil forfeiture when there is good reason to believe that the property's owner "knew of and agreed to the crimes" in question.
The cop who bought the marijuana from Young's son is currently serving a 3.5 year federal prison sentence for planting drugs on suspects.
Read the rest
Young is far from the only person to have her house seized by the Philadelphia D.A. for a minor drug crime that she didn't even commit. In 2013, Philadelphia police seized the house of Christos and Markela Sourovelis after their son was arrested for selling $40-worth of drugs outside of it.
The Sourovelis' sued, with assistance from the libertarian-leaning Institute for Justice, a nonprofit law firm that has challenged asset forfeiture laws in several states.
Banks have to report deposits of $10,000 or more to the IRS, so some fraudsters "structure" their transactions as a string of sub-$10K payments that escape the regulatory requirement. Structuring is also illegal, and the IRS has the power to seize funds that the agency believes were part of a structuring scheme, under the discredited "civil fofeiture" process through which an inanimate object is sued for being the proceeds of a crime, and then the owner of that object has to prove that the object is "innocent." Read the rest
Civil asset forfeiture is the bizarre American practice of seizing peoples' property without charging its owner: instead the property is charged with being the ill-gotten gains of a crime, and if the owner doesn't pay their property's legal bills, the police get to keep or sell the property. Read the rest
Earlier this week the president revealed that he supports civil asset forfeiture (of course he does) when he told a sheriff that he would "destroy" a state senator fighting to rein in civil asset forfeiture. Another state senator who opposes civil asset forfeiture, Daylin Leach of Pennsylvania, dared the president to try to destroy him, by tweeting: "Hey @realDonaldTrump I oppose civil asset forfeiture too! Why don't you try to destroy my career you fascist, loofa-faced, shit-gibbon!" Read the rest
Civil asset forfeiture is a perfectly foreseeable outcome of the overbroad War on Drugs: it allows the cops to seize your belongings and charge them -- not you! -- with being the proceeds of a crime. Then it's up to you to figure out how to prove that your cash, car, house, or other belongings are innocent, otherwise the cops get to keep your stuff and use it to fund their operations. Read the rest
Image: David Weekly/Flickr
Western Union admitted it behaved criminally through its "willful failure to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program and aiding and abetting wire fraud," reports Forbes. They've agreed to pay a $586 million fine.
From the Forbes article:
In a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission on Thursday, authorities describe insufficient or poorly enforced policies that resulted in the funneling of hundreds of millions of dollars in proceeds from illegal gambling, fraud and drug and human trafficking.
In one case, illegal immigrants from China sent money back to the people who smuggled them across the border. With the help of employees, the payments were structured so that they didn't trigger reporting requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act, say authorities.
In another example, Western Union processed hundreds of thousands of transactions for an international scam, wherein fraudsters directed people to send money in order to claim a prize or help a relative. Western Union employees often processed the payments in return for a cut of the proceeds, say authorities.
Wifredo A. Ferrer, the U.S. Attorney in Miami, said the misconduct reflected “a flawed corporate culture that failed to provide a checks and balances approach to combat criminal practices.”
“Western Union’s failure to implement proper controls and discipline agents that violated compliances policies enabled the proliferation of illegal gambling, money laundering and fraud-related schemes,” he added.
I'm not a fan of civil asset forfeiture, which is basically a way for law enforcement to steal money and assets from anyone without charging them with a crime. Read the rest
Americans have corn mazes, and in Japan, the town of Inakadate has rice paddy art. By planting several strains of rice in the same field, they create these colorful images, like this Star Wars scene.
Bonus: the latest Godzilla art.
• STAR WARS Inakadate Tambo Art (YouTube / Satoshi.K via) Read the rest
Fake plastic rice—totally convincing by sight, but potentially lethal to eat—has gone from urban legend to horrifying controversy in Nigeria, where a shipment of the stuff was intercepted and is undergoing tests. Is it plastic, or just really weird rice? Somehow everything's gotten murky and confusing.
Nigeria's food safety agency has denied claims by the health minister that it has cleared the reported "plastic" rice.
A senior official at the National Agency For Food and Drugs (Nafdac) said the minister's Twitter statement "is not their position".
Health Minister Isaac Adewole had tweeted that tests by the agency found "no evidence" of plastic material ... [but Latgos Customs Chief] Mr Mamudu had said the rice was very sticky after it was boiled and "only God knows what would have happened" if people ate it.
The BBC's Martin Patience in Lagos, who felt the rice, said it looked real but had a faint chemical odour.
Two and a half tons of "Best Tomato Rice" were seized and it's not clear if any has reached markets and stores. Tests should be complete in a few days.
"Whoever made it did a remarkable job," says the BBC's Martin Patience. "It feels like rice, the texture is amazing, but when you smell it, there's something not quite right."
I wonder if this is a symptom of the way commodities trading works. No-one doing the buying and selling ever gets near the goods, making the supply chain vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attackers adjacent to the source.
Commodities, Tealeaf! Read the rest
Some of the most notorious criminals of South and Central America and China have resettled to the USA with money they looted from their countries' treasuries or defrauded their fellow citizens of. Read the rest
Since 2009, the Chicago Police Department has seized $72M worth of property from people who were not convicted of any crime, through the discredited civil forfeiture process, keeping $48M worth of the gains (the rest went to the Cook County prosecutor's office and the Illinois State Police) in an off-the-books, unreported slush fund that it used to buy secret surveillance gear. Read the rest
California police departments' license to steal cash from innocent people has been restricted, thanks to a new bill signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. Let's hope the federal government follows suit.
Nick Sibilla of The Institute for Justice says:
Read the rest
Since 1994, California state law has required a criminal conviction before real estate, vehicles, boats and cash under $25,000 could be forfeited to the government. But those requirements are completely missing under federal law. So California police could instead partner with a federal agency, take the property under federal law, and reap up to 80 percent of the proceeds.
To fix this, the new law requires a criminal conviction before agencies can receive forfeiture payments from the federal government on forfeited real estate, vehicles, boats and cash valued at under $40,000.
New York City councilmember Ritchie Torres wants to know how much cash NYPD seizes every from citizens every year using using civil asset forfeiture, so he introduced legislation requiring annual reports from NYPD. But NYPD said at a hearing that the bill shouldn't be allowed to pass because NYPD's computers will crash if they attempt to generate the reports. Sounds legit!
Via Village Voice
"Attempts to perform the types of searches envisioned in the bill will lead to system crashes and significant delays during the intake and release process," said Assistant Deputy Commissioner Robert Messner, while testifying in front of the council's Public Safety Committee. "The only way the department could possibly comply with the bill would be a manual count of over half a million invoices each year."
When asked by councilmember Dan Garodnick whether the NYPD had come to the hearing with any sort of accounting for how much money it has seized from New Yorkers this past year, the NYPD higher-ups testifying simply answered "no."
[via] Read the rest
In the Bronx (and, to a lesser extent, elsewhere) when your belongings are seized as "evidence," it can be impossible to ever get them back, even if you're never charged with a crime. Read the rest
A USA Today investigation has discovered a network of paid informants working for Amtrak and nearly every US airline who illegally delve into passengers' travel records to find people who might be traveling with a lot of cash: these tip-offs are used by the DEA to effect civil forfeiture -- seizing money without laying any charges against its owner, under the rubric that the cash may be proceeds from drug sales. One Amtrak secretary was secretly paid $854,460 to raid her employer's databases for the DEA. Read the rest