In "Forfeiture & The DEA’s Asset Search" Donnie the former DEA Special Agent spoke about the effectiveness of asset forfeiture.  In that article, Donnie said: ‘asset forfeiture… can stop those who supply pseudophedrine to the meth super labs and Mexican cartels‘.  "A Strategy Of Seizing Sinaloa Drug Cartel Assets" also recently explained that asset forfeiture was a vital tool in the fight against the Mexican drug cartels.

Notwithstanding the benefits of an ethical asset forfeiture program, there can be occasional abuses.  Eight plaintiffs raise the issue of supposed improper seizure or asset forfeiture in James Morrow et. al. v. City of Tenaha Deputy City Marshal Barry Washington et. al., U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Index No. 2:08-CV-288.  These plaintiffs claim in their civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C §1983, that some law enforcement officers in or near Tenaha Texas, had essentially seized assets in a racial profiling scheme. 

Furthermore, an August 20, 2009 Memorandum Decision & Order reveals that the presiding judge intends to certify the plaintiffs’ case as a class action lawsuit under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2).  The plaintiffs who are African-Americans, assert they were driving in Tenaha Texas or on nearby state Highway 59.  They allege they were subjected to unconstitutional traffic stops and cash seizures based on their race or ethnicity. 

The defendant law enforcement officers contrarily claim that the traffic stops were proper and that the cash was contraband they could seize under The Texas Forfeiture Statute codified at Chapter 59 of the Code of Criminal Conduct.  The law enforcement officers allege they made these cash seizures, because some of the following had supposedly happened:

  1. inconsistent information supplied by a plaintiff about his or her travel plans; &/or
  2. a plaintiff possessed little or no documentation; &/or
  3. cash was hidden and wrapped in bundles; &/or
  4. a K-9 had given an alert during an open air sniff around a plaintiff’s vehicle; &/or
  5. there were marijuana odors detected in a plaintiff’s vehicle or other signs of marijuana use.

Police reports from the traffic stops additionally show that the law enforcement officers allegedly seized the plaintiffs’ cash as suspected money laundering proceeds.  One of these reports appears to memorialize the seizure of $50,291 in U.S. currency:

Click on the Image Below To View The Full Police Report


(Edited November 8, 2009)

Copyright 2009 Fred L. Abrams