TOLEDO, Ohio — A U.S. citizen who immigrated from Albania has accused U.S. Customs and Border Protection of seizing and keeping his life savings of $58,000 even though he has not been charged with a crime since being strip-searched at an airport last year on a trip back to his native country.
A lawsuit filed against the agency said it missed an April deadline either to return the money or start criminal proceedings. It says 64-year-old Rustem Kazazi was carrying the cash because he wanted to avoid transaction fees and thought it would be safer than trying to withdraw large sums of money in Albania, where he planned to repair a family home and was considering buying a vacation home.
Attorneys for Kazazi, who lives in suburban Cleveland, said the airport seizure highlights a practice civil rights groups have criticized for years — the government's use of civil forfeitures that allows law enforcement to take possessions without indictments or evidence a crime has been committed.
Opponents argue it opens the door for constitutional rights violations.
The Virginia-based Institute for Justice, which is handling the lawsuit filed last week, has previously sued Customs and Border Protection in two forfeiture cases in Texas, including one against a Houston-area nurse traveling to Nigeria to build a medical clinic.
This to me was the most interesting quote in the article.
"We should be convicting people of crimes before we strip them of their property — at a minimum they should first be charged," said Wesley Hottot, an attorney with the organization. "This is an un-American law enforcement tool."
Gee, I wonder what other situations this could apply to, taking peoples property without first allowing for due process?