The FBI is facing allegations of losing or possibly stealing property it seized in a raid on U.S. Private Vaults, a Beverly Hills-based company, in March 2021. Here’s what happened.
Two individuals, Don Mellein and Jeni Pearsons, have filed lawsuits against the FBI, claiming that their property disappeared under suspicious circumstances after the agency had seized it.
The Institute for Justice, a nonprofit law firm, has taken up the cause on behalf of these two citizens.
Joe Gay, an attorney with the organization, explained that the FBI’s actions have left many questions unanswered.
We Have No Way to Know
“All we know is that their property was in a box and safe before the FBI broke into the box,” Gay said.
“Once the FBI broke into the box, we honestly don’t know exactly what happened. We don’t know if they lost it. We don’t know if somebody pocketed it and walked away. We have no way to know,” he added.
Thousands of Dollars
Don Mellein, a 79-year-old retired civil servant, entrusted his financial security to a safety deposit box, where he stored cash and 110 gold coins valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Financial Planning Money
The couple, Jeni Pearsons and Michael Storc, also had stored approximately $20,000 in silver and $2,000 in cash as part of their financial planning.
The FBI’s involvement stemmed from an investigation into U.S. Private Vaults, which had been accused of conspiring to launder drug money.
The Legal Mechanism
The controversy deepened when both Mellein and Pearson received notices indicating that the FBI wanted to retain their property through the process of civil forfeiture.
This legal mechanism allows law enforcement agencies to seize assets they suspect are linked to criminal activity, even if the owner is not charged with a crime.
The FBI Had Full Power
As Pearsons delved into the details of civil forfeiture, she discovered that the options presented to reclaim her property essentially granted the FBI full discretion over its fate.
Least Transparent Process
She said “It was very disingenuous and shady even. It’s the least transparent process. It’s not something that you would do if your intent was to find out who these items belonged to.”
The Coins Were Lost
When they visited the FBI’s office to retrieve their belongings, they discovered that some things were missing.
Due to not being included on the property receipt for the contents of his box, 110 gold coins that belonged to Mellein were lost.
The FBI’s explanation was that, in the rush to process a large volume of property, they had abandoned their initial plan to record the process, opting instead for inventory paperwork.
“They Took It or Lost It”
This turn of events has left Mellein and Pearsons questioning their faith in law enforcement.
“There’s literally been no explanation. I think you have to assume that it’s the simplest explanation, and I think, unfortunately, the simplest explanation is they took it or lost it,” Pearsons said.
“A Fully Complete Criminal Organization”
Several social media users shared their thoughts on the incident.
One Twitter user wrote, “The FBI has devolved into a fully complete criminal organization.”
How Is That Justice?
Another user added, “So let me get this straight, a company was doing something illegal, but the thousands of customers who were innocent have to suffer loss of property/money because of another entity’s actions? How is that justice?”
The Good Guys
A third user commented, “Remember when Hollywood always depicted the FBI as the good guys. That was funny.”
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The post “They Took It or Lost It” – FBI Lawsuit Claims Agents ‘Misplaced’ Valuable Rare Coins During Raid first appeared on Back Edge News.
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