Even the most lawful and innocent conduct may lead to federal seizure of Americans’ assets. Hardly seems like America, does it?
For 38 years, Carole Hinders has owned and operated Mrs. Lady’s Mexican Food in Spirit Lake, Iowa. Mrs. Lady’s accepts only cash, which means Carol makes frequent trips to the bank to avoid having large sums of money at the restaurant.
But in August 2013, the federal government used civil forfeiture to seize Carol’s entire bank account—totaling nearly $33,000—even though she did nothing wrong. Federal law requires banks to report cash deposits larger than $10,000. Since her deposits were almost always less than $10,000, they claimed that she was “structuring” her cash bank deposits to evade that reporting requirement. And now they want to keep all of Carol’s money without even charging her with a crime.
Civil forfeiture allows the government to seize cash from Americans without charging them with, or convicting them of, a crime. Once the government seizes your bank account, it provides no prompt way to get your case heard by a judge, and it is up to you to prove your innocence. This is why the vast majority of structuring cases are settled.
On October 7, 2014, Carole teamed up with the Institute for Justice to fight back in federal court. A victory for Carole will vindicate not just her right to be free from the unjust seizure of her bank account, it will vindicate the right of every American to keep their property when they have done nothing wrong.
Here’s a video interview where Carole Hinders explains how the IRS shifts the burden of asset forfeiture to ordinary people:
For more about the so-called crime of structuring, see a Cato podcast from Larry Salzman: