Meet Linda Martin, a Los Angeles resident who claims that the FBI stole her life savings of $40,200. She’s now part of a nationwide class action lawsuit that seeks to hold the out-of-control agency accountable.
This story begins sometime before March of 2021 when Martin started to save money for a down payment on a Los Angeles home. To successfully save, she decided to trust her money in a safe deposit box. Why? Because in her words, she’s “a shopper.”
“Linda knew that if she could use her ATM card to spend that money, there would be a chance she would use it on something she wanted but didn’t really need. So she decided to put the cash in cold storage,” according to Forbes.
Unfortunately, her bank had no boxes to rent. And so she jumped on Google and found a storage company out of Beverly Hills called U.S. Private Vaults.
“She checked out the location, liked that it had modern security measures like a retina scanner, and that it was open 24 hours. That made her savings accessible any time when she really needed it, but also a 30-minute drive from her home, far enough away that she wouldn’t be tempted,” Forbes reported last week.
So far, so good. Then came March of 2021. That month, the FBI unexpectedly raided U.S. Private Vaults. Martin recalled hearing about it on TV.
“I just couldn’t believe it. I really didn’t believe it. I sat down to start watching the news with him, and the FBI was raiding our private vault place,” she told Fox News.
The shock aside, she figured the FBI would eventually return her money since she clearly wasn’t involved with U.S. Private Vaults’ wrongdoing, whatever it may have been. But she turned out to be extraordinarily wrong.
Indeed, a couple of months later, she received a legal-jargon-packed notice in the mail warning her that the FBI was trying to seize her money through civil forfeiture.
Martin assumed a mistake had been made and therefore responded by filing a “petition for remission.” There was just one gigantic problem.
“Unbeknownst to Linda, picking that option meant she effectively handed her money over to the FBI and gave it carte blanche to decide whether to return any of it,” Forbes reported.
Uh oh …
Years later, her money still remains with the FBI, and she has no idea if she’ll ever get it back.
“They didn’t tell us why they took our money. They haven’t told us anything as far as what we did wrong. We haven’t done anything wrong. We work and we saved our money because we were trying to save and buy a house,” she said to Fox News.
“The FBI, they feel like they can get away with anything. I just feel like it’s unfair,” she added.
She added that, to her knowledge, nobody who had their assets seized from U.S. Private Vaults has been charged with any crime. The only entity that has been charged is U.S. Private Vaults, which reportedly pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder drug money.
Fast-forward to the present day. During a press conference held earlier this month outside the FBI’s D.C. headquarters, Martin announced that she’s teamed up with the libertarian Institute for Justice non-profit law firm to file a nationwide class-action suit against the FBI.
FBI Robs Innocent Property Owner in Raid
Linda Martin thought she found a safe place to store cash she was setting aside to purchase a home. But now her home savings are in the hands of the FBI and she may never see them again.
Today, she’s teaming up with IJ to fight back. pic.twitter.com/fjqyUnomyc
— Institute for Justice (@IJ) March 8, 2023
“The suit asks the court to require the FBI to either tell Linda what it thinks she did wrong or return her property. Standing up for others, Linda’s lawsuit asks the court to do the same for everyone who received notices like Linda’s,” according to Forbes.
The goal is to not only help Martin but also anyone else who’s lost their assets after receiving a forfeiture notice.
“Unfortunately, this is legal. Civil forfeiture is a process in the United States where law enforcement can take property from people who have never been charged with a crime,” Institute for Justice attorney Bob Belden told Fox News.
The good news is that multiple parties are starting to fight back, including members of Congress.
Recently, Republican Rep. Tim Walberg and Democrat Rep. Jamie Raskin introduced H.R. 1525, the FAIR Act. If passed and signed into law, the bill would end “administrative forfeiture.”
Proud to introduce the FAIR Act with @RepRaskin, which would enact comprehensive reforms to federal civil forfeiture laws.
This effort to limit government overreach and restore constitutional rights has garnered support across the political spectrum.https://t.co/z5moLOn0ot
— Rep. Tim Walberg (@RepWalberg) March 11, 2023
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