The case is called "United States of America v. $4,070 in Currency," and in it the US Postal Service asks to seize $4,070 because a postal inspector concluded the money was derived from drug dealing because a woman he questioned said her boyfriend used marijuana.
Maybe his conclusion is a correct one -- the woman's story is pretty weak -- but is there enough evidence in the complaint to justify the money grab?
"On July 21, I intercepted a package at the Main Post Office in Madison Wisconsin," Postal Inspector Ross Hinckley said in a sworn affidavit filed last week in federal court in Madison. "The package was from Kasey Fischer in Beaver Dam and was addressed to Daren Quebada in San Jose, California."
Hinckley continues: "I interviewed Fisher by phone. She said the package was mailed by her boyfriend at the Madison Main Office to 'Darren Cali.' She said the package contained money her boyfriend was mailing to his family. She did not know the amount. Fisher said her boyfriend used her name and address because he did not have an address. She claimed she did not know if her boyfriend used drugs because they had only been dating for two years. She would not provide a phone number for her boyfriend and said she did not want anything to do with the package. A short time later, Fisher called back and said her boyfriend told her he used marijuana and that there was $4,070 in the package."
That's basically the entire case the USPS is presenting in asking to to seize the money. (The entire affidavit is below).
Federal and state civil asset forfeiture laws, which allow law enforcement to grab up private property without having to prove it was involved in a crime, are under fire across the country. The agencies that scoop up the money get to keep a goodly share of it, thus providing a perverse incentive for cops to err on the side of profit when deciding whether seizure is warranted. Reformers are seeking to change the laws and there is a bill pending in the state legislature that would minimize the incentives for cops to use state civil asset forfeiture laws to pad their own budgets. There also is a push to change the federal forfeiture laws to make them far less tilted in favor of law enforcement.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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