The Institute for Justice, a national public interest law firm leading the fight to end civil forfeiture, has filed suit against the government for stealing $107,000 from Lyndon McLellan, the owner of a convenience store in rural Fairmont, North Carolina.
Although McLellan did not break the law or was he charged with a crime, the IRS and the Department of Justice seized his money. The theft occurred months after the IRS announced a formal policy change prohibiting the agency from using civil forfeiture to take money from law-abiding citizens.
“It took me 13 years to save that much money, and it took fewer than 13 seconds for the government to take it away,” said McLellan.
“This case demonstrates that the federal government’s recent reforms are riddled with loopholes and exceptions and fundamentally fail to protect Americans’ basic rights,” said Institute for Justice Attorney Robert Everett Johnson, who represents Lyndon. “No American should have his property taken by the government without first being convicted of a crime.”
Following a front page story in The New York Times, the IRS announced it “will no longer pursue the seizure and forfeiture of funds associated solely with ‘legal source’ structuring cases.” The Justice Department also made a promise not to raid bank accounts.
According to the Institute for Justice from 2005 to 2012 the IRS seized more than $242 million for suspected structuring violations in more than 2,500 cases, and annual seizures increased fivefold over those eight years. A third of those seizures occurred in cash transaction cases under $10,000 where no criminal activity was alleged.
For more on government theft from innocent citizens, see “How Uncle Sam Became A Bank Robber” for more.