DEA regularly mines Americans' travel records to seize millions in cash

By Brad Heath, USA TODAY


WASHINGTON — Federal drug agents regularly mine Americans’ travel information to profile people who might be ferrying money for narcotics traffickers — though they almost never use what they learn to make arrests or build criminal cases.

Instead, that targeting has helped the Drug Enforcement Administration seize a small fortune in cash.


DEA Targets Innocent Americans—Accessing Their Travel Data and Seizing Cash

By Jason Snead CNS News

Well-meaning laws designed to nab high-level criminals have been twisted to siphon off money from law-abiding American citizens. The latest abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws involves air and rail travelers being targeted and fleeced by a federal agency.

The Drug Enforcement Administration is pulling Americans’ travel data en masse from airline and Amtrak records, profiling individuals with “suspicious” travel habits, and targeting them for searches as part of the nation’s drug interdiction efforts. But, according to a damning article last week in USA Today, the goal of this massive operation is neither to confiscate drugs nor to make arrests–it’s to seize and forfeit cash via civil asset forfeiture laws.

Seize, they have. Over ten years, DEA agents deployed at 15 airports across the country have brought in $209 million in alleged drug funds, money that the DEA and its local agency partners spent with little oversight or accountability. But while agents generated a mountain of cash.


The DEA has for some time diligently built out a network of confidential informants who are paid for tips leading to the discovery and seizure of large amounts of cash. The agency has even paid fellow government employees to provide this information.

The Department of Justice’s Inspector General concluded that a DEA arrangement to enroll Amtrak employees as confidential informants was improper. One of these employees was paid in excess of $850,000 over 20 years to provide tips that ultimately led to cash seizures.   

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Should We Trust Police Officers?
Are police officers allowed to lie to you? Yes the Supreme Court has ruled that police officers can lie to the American people. Police officers are trained at lying, twisting words and being manipulative. Police officers and other law enforcement agents are very skilled at getting information from people. So don’t try to “out smart” a police officer and don’t try being a “smooth talker” because you will lose! If you can keep your mouth shut, you just might come out ahead more than you expected. Related article: 
46,000+ American citizens are currently serving time for crimes that they did not commit  

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Police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes

DEA Targets Innocent Americans—Accessing Their Travel Data and Seizing Cash


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Washington Post

Officers can take cash and property from people without convicting or even charging them with a crime — yes, really! — through the highly controversial practice known as
civil asset forfeiture. Last year, according to the Institute for Justice, the Treasury and Justice departments deposited more than $5 billion into their respective asset forfeiture funds. That same year, the FBI reports that burglary losses topped out at $3.5 billion.

These are only the federal totals and don't reflect how much property is seized by state and local police each year. Reliable data for all 50 states is unavailable, but the Institute of Justice 
found that the total asset forfeiture haul for 14 states topped $250 million in 2013. The grand 50-state total would be much higher. Police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes.


Police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes

By Michael Sallah, Robert O’Harrow Jr., Steven Rich by the Washington Post

A 55-year-old Chinese American restaurateur from Georgia was pulled over for minor speeding on Interstate 10 in Alabama and detained for nearly two hours. He was carrying $75,000 raised from relatives to buy a Chinese restaurant in Lake Charles, La. He got back his money 10 months later but only after spending thousands of dollars on a lawyer and losing out on the restaurant deal.

A 40-year-old Hispanic carpenter from New Jersey was stopped on Interstate 95 in Virginia for having tinted windows. Police said he appeared nervous and consented to a search. They took $18,000. He had to hire a lawyer to get back his money.

Mandrel Stuart, a 35-year-old African American owner of a small barbecue restaurant in Staunton, Va., was stunned when police took $17,550 from him during a stop in 2012 for a minor traffic infraction on Interstate 66 in Fairfax. He rejected a settlement with the government for half of his money and demanded a jury trial. He eventually got his money back but lost his business because he didn’t have the cash to pay his overhead.

“I paid taxes on that money. I worked for that money,” Stuart said. “Why should I give them my money?”

Advocates of highway interdiction say it plays an important role in bringing millions of dollars to financially stressed police departments.

“We go hunting for money in general,” said Sandy Springs, Ga., Officer Mike DeWald, who has served as a trainer for 4:20. “I have been pressured to go after money.”

Police trainers said that their work has not helped make the country safer and no terrorists activity has been stopped.

Steven Peterson, a former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent who arranged highway interdiction training through a company called the 4:20 Group, said that patrol officers used to try to make their names with large drug busts. He said he saw that change when agency leaders realized that cash seizures could help their departments during lean times.

“They saw this as a way to provide equipment and training for their guys,” Peterson said. “If you seized large amounts of cash, that’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

The Post’s review of 400 court cases, which encompassed seizures in 17 states, provided insights into stops and seizures.

In case after case, highway interdictors appeared to follow a similar script.

Police set up what amounted to rolling checkpoints on busy highways and pulled over motorists for minor violations, such as following too closely or improper signaling. They quickly issued warnings or tickets. They studied drivers for signs of nervousness, including pulsing carotid arteries, clenched jaws and perspiration. They also looked for supposed “indicators” of criminal activity, which can include such things as trash on the floor of a vehicle, abundant energy drinks or air fresheners hanging from rearview mirrors.

One recent stop shows how the process can work in the field.

In December 2012, Frye was working in his capacity as a part-time deputy in Seward County, Neb. He pulled over John Anderson of San Clemente, Calif., who was driving a BMW on Interstate 80 near Lincoln. Frye issued a warning ticket within 13 minutes for failing to signal promptly when changing lanes.

He told Anderson he was finished with the stop. But Frye later noted in court papers that he found several indicators of possible suspicious activity: an air freshener, a radar detector and inconsistencies in the driver’s description of his travels.

The officer then asked whether the driver had any cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin or large amounts of cash and sought permission to search the BMW, according to a video of the stop.

Anderson denied having drugs or large amounts of cash in his car. He declined to give permission for a search. Frye then radioed for a drug-sniffing dog, and the driver had to wait another 36 minutes for the dog to arrive.

“I’m just going to, basically, have you wait here,” Frye told Anderson.

The dog arrived and the handler said it indicated the presence of drugs. But when they searched the car, none was found. They did find money: $25,180.

Frye handcuffed Anderson and told him he was placing him under arrest.

“In Nebraska, drug currency is illegal,” Frye said. “Let me tell you something, I’ve seized millions out here. When I say that, I mean millions. . . . This is what I do.”

Frye suggested to Anderson that he might not have been aware of the money in his vehicle and began pressing him to sign a waiver relinquishing the cash, mentioning it at least five times over the next hour, the video shows.

“You’re going to be given an opportunity to disclaim the currency,” Frye told Anderson. “To sign a form that says, ‘That is not my money. I don’t know anything about it. I don’t want to know anything about it. I don’t want to come back to court.’ ”

Frye said that unless the driver agreed to give up the money, a prosecutor would “want to charge” him with a crime, “so that means you’ll go to jail.”

An hour and six minutes into the stop, Frye read Anderson his Miranda rights.

Anderson, who told Frye he worked as a self-employed debt counselor, said the money was not illicit and he was carrying it to pay off a gambling debt. He would later say it was from investors and meant to buy silver bullion and coins. More than two hours after the stop had begun, he finally agreed to give up the cash and Frye let him go. Now Anderson has gone to court to get the money back, saying he signed the waiver and mentioned the gambling debt only because he felt intimidated by Frye.

A magistrate has ruled at a preliminary step in the case that Frye had reasonable suspicion to detain Anderson. Frye said he always follows the law and has never had a seizure overturned.

Legal scholars who viewed the video of the stop told The Post that such practices push constitutional limits. Officers often are taught not to tell the driver they have a right to leave at any time after a traffic stop is concluded. But extended stops in which the officer uses psychological pressure on the driver without charges or Miranda warnings can cross the line.

“Encouraging police to initiate searches for the purpose of seizing cash or other assets, rather than to seize evidence to be used in a prosecution, is a dangerous development,” said Clifford Fishman, a law professor at Catholic University and former New York City prosecutor. “It is particularly troubling if police officers are trained to manipulate the suspect into forfeiting the assets or waiving the right to contest the search.”

David A. Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor, said Frye’s stop crossed the line when he detained the driver while summoning a canine.

“You cannot elongate the stop to bring in the dogs,” he said. “In doing that, you’re detaining the person without probable cause. That ain’t kosher.”