FBI Violated Constitutional Rights of Hundreds of Americans by Raiding Safety Deposit Boxes, Appeals Court Rules

When agents representing Democrat President Joe Biden’s weaponized FBI raided a California safety deposit box business in 2021, they violated the constitutional rights of hundreds of Americans, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The FBI violated private citizens’ constitutional rights when it seized contents from hundreds of safe deposit boxes during a 2021 raid on the Beverly Hills business.

The federal agency claims that the business was suspected of money laundering.

Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Rob Frommer, who represented several plaintiffs in the case, celebrated the ruling.

“This was a resounding victory, not just for our clients, but for the hundreds of people who’ve been stuck in a nightmare for years because of what the FBI did,” Frommer said in a statement.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found the bureau violated U.S. Private Vaults box holders’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures by opening and cataloging the contents of 1,400 safe deposit boxes.

The FBI searched the private boxes without individual criminal warrants for each.

The ruling was made on January 23 but only made public on Wednesday.

The court’s decision reversed a 2022 lower court ruling siding with Biden’s FBI.

The new ruling requires federal officials to destroy any inventory records of the hundreds of box holders not charged with a crime.

Agents took about $86 million in cash from the boxes in the March 2021 raid, as well as a trove of jewelry, gold bars, coins, silver, and other valuables, much of which belonged to innocent civilians who were not accused of crimes.

According to court documents filed by the Biden administration, the FBI “commenced administrative forfeiture proceedings” against an unspecified number of the boxes in May 2021.

Civil asset forfeiture is the process through which the government seizes money or other property believed to be linked to a crime, even if the owner isn’t charged with a crime.

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The FBI’s raid on U.S. Private Vaults was part of its investigation into the company, which ultimately shut down and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder drug money.

The government argued before the 9th Circuit that its warrant authorized the FBI to seize the deposit boxes and inventory their contents per standardized policy.

But unsealed court documents showed neither the FBI nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office told the judge in their warrant request that agents planned to confiscate the contents of every box containing at least $5,000 in cash or belongings.

The warrant only authorized authorities to seize business computers, money counters, and surveillance equipment.

The judge also allowed them to seize safety deposit boxes and keys, but specifically wrote that agents should only “inspect the contents of the boxes in an effort to identify their owners … so that they can claim their property,” and that the warrant “does not authorize a criminal search or seizure of the contents of the safety deposit boxes.”

In its decision, the 9th Circuit panel wrote that the government had gone beyond the scope of its warrant and violated its own rules by taking inventory of property that wasn’t the subject of a warrant.

Circuit Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. wrote that it was “particularly troubling” that the government couldn’t explain the limitations to these types of inventory searches and questioned how they differed from the “limitless searches of an individual’s personal belongings” like those seen in colonial America.

“It was those very abuses of power, after all, that led to the adoption of the Fourth Amendment in the first place,” Smith wrote.

Jeni Pearsons, one of the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit, said the win was “incredibly gratifying.”

“Hearing these judges just knock them down a peg and talk through the situation, this extraordinary overreach and an actual breaking of civil rights… it was just really, really gratifying,” she told Fox News.

Pearsons and her husband Michael Storc had $20,000 in silver and $2,000 in cash seized from their rented security deposit box during the raid.

She teamed up with the Institute for Justice to fight for her property and ultimately prevailed, but said she found the FBI had lost the $2,000 when she went to reclaim it.

“I do think that the FBI is watching this case,” Pearsons said.

“And I hope that if they do continue with civil forfeiture processes, that they put structure in place so that it’s transparent and that it’s not just a free-for-all all, which is what this seems to be.”

“It’s a free-for-all all within a ridiculous defense,” Pearsons added.

But Frommer said while this ruling helped “expose the government’s attempt to steal innocent people’s things,” he doesn’t think it will end civil forfeiture abuse.

“I think this ruling on its own is important, but it won’t stop the FBI’s grasping hand,” he told Fox News.

“Yeah, they got their hand slapped just now.

“But unless there’s real consequences, they’ll just view this as a dry run for the next time.”

Thom Mrozek, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, said the prosecutor’s office was “prepared to destroy records of the inventory search, which is the relief sought by the plaintiffs in the case.”

READ MORE: Prosecutors Found Epstein’s Hard Drives &Videos during Raid but They Never Entered Into Evidence

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