According to a new report based on leaked documents, the agency misled a judge regarding a warrant in order to unlawfully confiscate property worth tens of millions of dollars.
The federal government stole a total of $86 million in cash along with more in gold, silver, and jewelry from over 1,400 safety deposit boxes under the pretense that they were linked to crimes.
18 months later, recently declassified court records reveal that the FBI and Los Angeles U.S. attorney’s office obtained the order for the raid by deceiving the judge who authorized it.
A senior FBI agent recently testified that they neglected to include in their warrant request a crucial component of the FBI’s strategy: the permanent confiscation of everything inside every box carrying at least $5,000 in cash or merchandise.
FBI misled judge to sign off on warrant resulting in agents stealing more than $86 million in cash & other valuables from ordinary Americans’ safety deposit boxes https://t.co/fcPm49bmN9— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) September 26, 2022
According to court papers, the FBI’s reasoning for the dragnet forfeiture was their assumption that hundreds of unidentified box holders were all holding assets that were somehow connected to unsolved murders.
The bounty—more than $86 million in cash, a bonanza of gold, silver, rare coins, gem-studded jewelry, and enough Rolex and Cartier watches to stock a boutique—took scores of agents five days to fill their evidence bags.
When he issued the order, the judge was not informed of the plot, and as far as I can gather, there is still no reason to think that the FBI’s actions were justified in any way.
Since the FBI was collaborating directly with the US attorney’s office in Los Angeles, the DOJ was also involved in this. According to the article, that office attempted to prevent the release of these documents, but the court hearing the case rejected their plea. The administration was trying to hide its wrongdoing once more by wielding the tools of “secrecy.” Unfortunately, it has been routine practice, and there are numerous instances of the FBI and DOJ trying to conceal themselves behind administrative processes when they are exposed.