Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Give Us Money Now

DEA Takes $23,700 From U.S. Trucker

Driving while Mexican-American is apparently enough to get your money taken in New Mexico. But don't worry. File a lawsuit to prove its yours, and you can have it back in a year. Probably.

Land Line Magazine - for Professional Truckers

A Texas trucker whose $23,000 in cash was confiscated from his truck by federal drug agents has sued the federal government to get his money back.

Anastasio Prieto – a U.S. citizen who resides in El Paso, TX, and is contracted with Schneider National Carriers – said he distrusts banks and chooses to carry large amounts of cash.

According to court documents, Prieto passed through a U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoint on U.S. 54 on Aug. 8 before pulling into a weigh station in New Mexico. A New Mexico Department of Public Safety officer told Prieto his trailer had a worn tire, and an officer asked if he could search the truck.

After Prieto allowed the search, the officer asked him whether he had possession of needles or cash in excess of $10,000. Prieto told the officer he had no needles but he did have $23,700 in cash, which was taken by officers who then contacted a supervisor.

The supervisor showed up at the weigh station about one hour later but rejected Prieto’s willingness to show her income documents he said proved the cash belonged to him.

Seizing money was routine, one of the two officers told Prieto, and Gary Apodaca, a Drug Enforcement Administration task force officer, told him he’d probably get his cash back “in a year from now.”
Houston Chronicle

Officers took the money and turned it over to the DEA. DEA agents photographed and fingerprinted Prieto over his objections, then released him without charging him with anything.

Border Patrol agents searched his truck with drug-sniffing dogs, but found no evidence of illegal substances, the ACLU said.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants violated Prieto's right to be free of unlawful search and seizure by taking his money without probable cause and by fingerprinting and photographing him.

"Mere possession of approximately $23,700 does not establish probable cause for a search or seizure," the lawsuit said.

It said Prieto pulled into the weigh station about 10:30 a.m. Aug. 8 and was let go about 4 p.m.

DEA agents told Prieto he would receive a notice of federal proceedings to permanently forfeit the money within 30 days and that to get it back, he'd have to prove it was his and did not come from illegal drug sales.

The ACLU's New Mexico executive director, Peter Simonson, said Prieto needs his money now to pay bills and maintain his truck. The lawsuit said Prieto does not like banks and customarily carries his savings as cash.

"The government took Mr. Prieto's money as surely as if he had been robbed on a street corner at night," Simonson said. "In fact, being robbed might have been better. At least then the police would have treated him as the victim of a crime instead of as a perpetrator."
Gee, Gidge. How about I just throw up a road block and take all cash exceeding whatever I feel reasonable from anyone who doesn't look like me? That should let me hit my budget for the year, no prob.

Or how about you kiss my ass. Dumbshit Republican judges who've stretched the law to allow this crap. If this isn't an unconstitutional taking, then what in the hell is?