from the nothing-more-evil-than-a-convenient-shipping-option dept
Here’s how we’re fighting the War on Drugs. Lots of stuff going on, but not much seems to be happening in terms of actually, you know, keeping drugs from ending up in buyers’ hands. The byproduct of the problem — the cash — is all anyone seems interested in.
As Brad Heath points out in his tweets referencing this in rem complaint, federal agents camp out at major air traffic hubs looking for nothing but cash. As we’ve covered here earlier, the DEA is actually paying TSA agents to search for cash and alert officers if any amount worth seizing rolls through checkpoints.
The same thing is happening in FedEx hubs. In this case, officers from the DHS, Indiana State Police, Indiana Metro PD all combined to stop some cash from traversing the country from Ohio to Arizona.
The filing lets us know what the government finds suspicious in terms of packaging and sending stuff around the country: everything. If you like using FedEx and their new boxes, but apply a bit too much tape, you might be a drug dealer. From the complaint [PDF]:
Based on information and experience, task force officers can easily identify suspicious packages with indicators, such as newly-bought boxes bought from the shipping company, overnight shipping, and excessive taping at the seams of the box.
Boxes, tape, and overnight shipping are literally what FedEx is known for. Yes, these officers uncovered a lot of suspicious stuff once they were IN the boxes — packages of cash wrapped in fabric softener sheets — but they needed something to justify the search of the boxes in the first place. I’m sorry, but “information and experience” asserting little more than what hundreds of FedEx customers do every day just doesn’t cut it.
Sure, they ran a dog around the boxes and it alerted, but cash will probably prompt alerts anyway, given how much of it has circulated close to drugs or has been used as a drug delivery device. (A “blind” drug sniff is mentioned later, suggesting the dog and boxes were tossed into the room without a handler. It’s a nice control but doesn’t mean much when there’s already been an alert with the handler present. If the dog had “failed” to detect drugs without the handler present, this simply would have been omitted from the warrant.)
The only other link to suspicion was the fact that the package was being shipped to Arizona from Ohio, but both the “To” and “From” labels contained the same Arizona address. God forbid you ship anything to or from Arizona — not if any drug interdiction teams are in the area:
Parcels 6920 and 7068 drew attention for other reasons: they were heavily taped and being shipped to Arizona, known by law enforcement as a source for illegal controlled substances…
This is same assertion made about several states and major cities. Everything has a drug nexus if you’re in the business of drug warring. The thing is, there’s a lot of innocent activity going on in these same cities and states, but it all looks suspicious through a drug interdiction lens.
In total, there’s a $108,000 being forfeited as suspected drug proceeds. The final nail in the evidentiary coffin is the background check on the package’s recipient. Not sure how it all adds up to drug dealing, but I guess all crimes are gateway crimes or whatever.
Richard Reyes has a criminal history for theft, assault causing bodily injury, and criminal mischief. In 2003, Richard Reyes was found guilty of one count of theft in case number M-0111051 (Tarrant Criminal County Court, Texas). In 2003, Richard Reyes was also found guilty of one count of assault causing bodily injury and one count of criminal mischief in case numbers 0610831 and 0610832 (Travis County Court, Texas).
I’m not saying Reyes isn’t a drug dealer. I’m saying this is pretty thin connective tissue if someone’s trying to prove the money came from the sale of drugs. But the evidentiary bar is so low law enforcement is probably going to get to keep this cash.
Then there’s the presence of a DHS agent. This allows Indiana law enforcement to profit from suspected criminal activity occurring outside of its jurisdiction. The package was sent from Ohio to Arizona but intercepted in Indianapolis. Dragging a federal agent along keeps the money from going into the coffers of coppers in the two states where drug dealing may actually be occurring. Handy that.
This is just one of dozens of similar litigation filed every year in the federal court system to take cash from people the government has no interest in arresting or charging. Somehow, seizing cash is supposed to cripple drug cartels. Seeing as civil forfeiture has experienced no serious income dips over the past 30 years, it’s safe to say this process is doing nothing but enriching government agencies who prefer cash to preventing crime.