Josh Gingerich says a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent called the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), who seized $29,000 of his cash (in a bag) at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport in February.
Gingerich, who buys and flips trucks, recently recalled the incident to KOVR:
They take you down to a dingy basement room. No cameras…no nothing. They can just do what they want.
Gingerich said the officers claimed to smell marijuana on a plastic bag filled with dirty laundry in his backpack.
When officers dumped the clothes, they reportedly saw Gingerich’s bag filled with cash and brought in a drug dog.
Benjamin Ruddell of the ACLU explained how the DEA’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Program can legally seize money from people who have not been charged or convicted of a crime:
There’s no prohibition on carrying cash, or carrying a large amount of cash. If the purpose of this is to disrupt illegal drug activity…we’d see some of these people be arrested.
The U.S. Justice Department Inspector General released a report in March that said the DEA seized $3.2 billion — with zero convictions — from 2007–2016.
Gingerich has hired attorney Michael Schmiege to get his money back, which Schmiege said could take years:
It’s not a quick and easy process. It’s not like traffic court. It can drag on for years. Most United States currency has trace amounts of narcotics on it.
Gingerich wants his money back, plus interest.
The DEA defended seizing money from people who have not been charged or convicted of any crimes in the name of “public safety and security”:
The Asset Forfeiture Program aims to employ asset forfeiture powers in a manner that enhances public safety and security.
This is accomplished by removing the proceeds of crime and other assets relied upon by criminals and their associates to perpetuate their criminal activity against our society.
Asset forfeiture has the power to disrupt or dismantle criminal organizations that would continue to function if we only convicted and incarcerated specific individuals.
Seizures made during the course of interdiction operations do not rely on only one fact when determining probable cause.
Multiple facts, circumstances, statements and other factors go into the decision to seize an asset.
These must be taken as a whole in order to understand the probable cause for a seizure, each of which, has a process for contesting available to them.