A state-organized mob led by a Chekist (secret policeman) calls for the extermination of "kulak" farmers in Soviet Ukraine during the early 1930s.
"[T]he theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property." -- Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto
Anastasio Prieto, a truck driver from El Paso, Texas, doesn't trust banks and prefers to carry his savings with him in cash. While this is a dangerous way to manage one's money, a cursory glance at recent headlines tends to validate Prieto's concerns about the stability of the fractional-reserve banking system.
During a stop at a weigh station in New Mexico on August 8, Prieto made a critical mistake: He cooperated with the police, assuming that as a law-abiding individual he had nothing to fear from them.
Never make that assumption.
A New Mexico state trooper asked Prieto for permission to search his truck for contraband, such as needles or cash in excess of $10,000. Displaying an ingenuousness that breaks my heart, the truck driver consented, informing the officer that he was carrying nothing illegal -- but admitting that he had $23,700 on board.
Never consent to a police search, for any reason.
Never admit to a police officer that you are carrying large amounts of cash.
Always assume that a police officer would make the same use of that information that would be made by any other armed and potentially violent individual: He would find some way to steal your money.
And that is exactly what the officer did to Prieto, with the help of comrades from the federal Staatspolizei -- agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Border Patrol. Over his objections, Prieto was detained for several hours, photographed, and fingerprinted, while his truck was searched by agents with drug-sniffing dogs.
As Prieto had explained, his truck was devoid of contraband. So the police apologized profusely, returned his money, bought him a cold drink and sent him away with a friendly smile and a wave.
Oh, stop it! You're killing me! What country do you think we live in, anyway?
The police "forfeited" -- that is, stole -- Prieto's savings. The DEA agents who presided over the theft "told Prieto he would receive a notice of federal proceedings to permanently forfeit the money within 30 days and that to get it back, he'd have to prove it was his and did not come from illegal drug sales," reported the Houston Chronicle.
You see, under existing laws and recent legal decisions, "possession of a large sum of money" by a motorist "is `strong evidence' of a connection to drug activity."
So ruled the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in a decision handed down almost exactly a year before Prieto was robbed at gunpoint in New Mexico. The case was entitled "United States of America v. $124,700 in US Currency" (.pdf).
You see, it's not necessary to find the owner of the money guilty of anything; the money itself can be convicted of involvement in criminal activity and "punished" by being permanently taken into government custody.
Prieto has been told it will take a year for him to recover his stolen money, should the regime condescend to give any portion of it back. Meanwhile, he is apparently left penniless, with no funds to maintain the truck that is the source of his livelihood. The collectivist State ruling us treated Prieto in much the same way the Soviet state treated Ukrainian kulaks -- at least those kulaks who were permitted to live, anyway.
If our money can be seized from us simply because some agent of the State wants to, in what sense is it our property?
Summary seizure and "forefeiture" of property -- including cash -- by police is one of the larger gifts bestowed on our society by the murderous fraud called the "war on drugs." Ten years ago, Congress enacted a "reform" measure intended to rein in the practice, but as we see it is pointless to attempt to reform a practice that should be abolished outright.
Invariably, "forfeited" cash and goods are depicted as the ill-gotten gains of narcotics trafficking; it's never explained, however, how those supposedly dirty proceeds are magically cleansed once they are handed over to the police. The bounties seized by police are often used to buy the latest in tyranny tech, such pimped-out SWAT vehicles and other goodies for the jackbooted pests who are deployed to bring in the loot; this makes a nicely self-sustaining system of official corruption.
As the clip below documents, it's just nice to have some extra money to blow on kewl gadgets with little practical value:
Thanks to asset forfeiture, the Bridgeport, Connecticut police can simply steal the money to buy such cool toys without having to request it from officials who are expected to represent the interests of the local taxpayers.
In fact, asset forfeiture has made it possible for corrupt police departments (or do I repeat myself) to cut out courts and juries and get straight to the business of plunder.
To expedite the process, Bradenton, Florida's Police Department devised a "Contraband Forfeiture Agreement" (.pdf) for use by officers carrying out drug enforcement raids. Citizens who sign such agreements surrender their property -- such as cash or cars -- "to the DEPARTMENT free and clear of all claims or liens"; they also waive their due process rights. In exchange, the police agree not to prosecute.
Janie Brooks, a local resident in her mid-50s, was taken into custody by police who claimed to find drugs in her car. The automobile and $1,200 in cash were confiscated, and Brooks was intimidated into signing the agreement.
"He [the officer] kept rushing me, like, `Go ahead, things will be better if you did," recalled Brooks. "It was like, there's gonna be some big time stuff that happens to me if I don't sign it."
Asked for his expert opinion of the practice, law professor Joseph Little of the University of Florida overcame a tragic handicap -- decades of legal training -- to offer a sensible assessment: "It sounds like robbery to me."
Indeed it does -- robbery coupled with extortion and more than a hint of terrorism. And it was immensely profitable: The county's asset forfeiture fund at one point topped $150,000.
Using almost exactly the same methods -- traffic stops, contrived searches, and armed extortion in lieu of prosecution -- the Dallas County, Iowa Sheriff's Department sucked up $1.7 billion from motorists traveling along I-80 between 2002 and 2006. This profitable racket had to gear down just a bit after Sheriff Brian Gilbert was convicted of stealing $120,000 in stolen money.
But Gilbert's lenient sentence -- a $1,000 fine, a year's probation, and a brief term of "community service," rather than a prison term -- suggests that his comrades have a license to steal from the general public, as long as they don't skim from the State's take.
The same priorities governed the Soviet Union, of course: The police were free to expropriate the bourgeoise at whim, but stealing from the State was a capital offense.
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