In a rare occurrence for the U.S. the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has decided to return money that it confiscated from Stacy Jones in September after wrongly alleging that the money came from drug sales.
It had no proof to support the argument, but this hasn’t prevented the organisation from holding money in the past. In fact, over the past ten years, it has allegedly seized more than $4 billion and never returned it while never pressing charges against those people from whom the money was taken at the same time.
This past September, Jones was scheduled to return home to Florida from a gambling trip with her husband to North Carolina when they were stopped at the airport during a routine security inspection.
She had $43,000 in cash with her and, despite no regulation in place that mandates the declaration of significant amounts of cash while travelling domestically, airport security agents became suspicious. The officers called the cops, who called the DEA, who heavily questioned Jones and her husband.
The DEA confiscated the money and accused the pair of having obtained it through the illicit selling of drugs, not believing their claim that they had rightfully earned the money through the sale of a car, a charge that the agency could never substantiate with facts. The agency declined to refund the money, leading to a complaint against it, despite attempts to appeal to the DEA’s soft side (not that there is one).
The DEA has now returned the money, seemingly without a word, no apology and no clarification, according to a press release by the law firm that represented the couple, the Institute for Justice.
In the release, Jones said: “Getting my money back is a big relief. But DEA never should have taken it in the first place. In going through this nightmare, I found out that I’m not the only innocent American who has been treated this way. I hope that my continuing lawsuit will end the government’s practise of treating people flying with cash like criminals.”
Just because the DEA has made changes does not suggest that the agency is out of the hot seat. The law firm is holding the case in effect, arguing that the principles of civil forfeiture in the U.S. are skewed against the government unlawfully.
Senior Attorney Dan Alban of the Institute for Justice said: “We are glad that Stacy will get her money back, but it is shameful that federal agents keep targeting innocent flyers at our nation’s airports. We are going to keep fighting to end TSA’s and DEA’s unconstitutional and unlawful practises of seizing people and their cash without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.”