Bombshell LA Times Report: FBI Misled Judge Who OK’d Warrant for Beverly Hills Seizure of $86 million
There is currently a class-action lawsuit by box holders who say the raid violated their rights.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been very busy, between raids on President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, carpet-bombing subpoenas ahead of the mid-terms, and swatting the home of a Catholic pro-life activist.
The Los Angeles Times published a bombshell report that the FBI neglected to tell the judge who approved a warrant for a March 2021 raid on the U.S Private Vaults store in Beverly Hills that the agency intended to keep the money its agents pried out of every safe deposit box containing $5,000 or more in cash.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, the failure of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles to disclose the confiscation plan in the raid request was revealed in FBI documents and depositions of agents in a class-action lawsuit by box holders who say the raid violated their rights. The specific information about the agencies’ alleged scheme to bag for themselves the contents of all $5000-and-over deposit boxes comes from recent testimony by a senior FBI agent.
The raid—which the government justified on the presumption that hundreds of box holders were hoarding illegally-gotten assets—was particularly intrusive.
Federal agents descending on the Olympic Boulevard strip mall location manhandled the personal belongings of a jazz saxophone player, an interior designer, a retired doctor, a flooring contractor and a couple of Century City lawyers, among hundreds of others, notes the Times. Feds also made video and photo records of customers’ most sensitive documents: pay stubs, password lists, credit cards, a prenuptial agreement, immigration and vaccination records, bank statements and a will all made it into government databases, court docs show.
…The court filings further indicate that federal agents defied restrictions that U.S. Magistrate Judge Steve Kim set in the warrant when they searched through box holders’ belongings for evidence of crimes.
The raid took five days to complete and netted more than $86 million in cash and a bonanza of gold, silver, rare coins, gem-studded jewelry, and high-end watches.
The U.S. attorney’s office has tried to block public disclosure of court papers that laid bare the government’s deception, but a judge rejected its request to keep them under seal. There is a class-action lawsuit by box holders who say the raid violated their rights.
“The government did not know what was in those boxes, who owned them, or what, if anything, those people had done,” Robert Frommer, a lawyer who represents nearly 400 box holders in the class-action case, wrote in court papers.
“That’s why the warrant application did not even attempt to argue there was probable cause to seize and forfeit box renters’ property.”
…The plaintiffs in the class-action suit have asked U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner to declare the raid unconstitutional. If he grants the request, it could force the FBI to return millions of dollars to box holders whose assets it has tried to confiscate.
It could also spoil an unknown number of criminal investigations by blocking prosecutors from using any evidence or information acquired in the raid, including guns and drugs.
Private Vaults was charged with conspiracy to sell drugs and launder money.
The FBI and U.S. attorney’s office denied that they misled the judge or ignored his conditions, saying they had no obligation to tell him of the plan for indiscriminate confiscations on the blanket assumption that every customer was hiding crime-tainted assets.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said the warrants were lawfully executed “based on allegations of widespread criminal wrongdoing.”
“At no time was a magistrate misled as to the probable cause used to obtain the warrants,” she said.
U.S. Private Vaults has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder drug money, and the investigation is continuing, she said.
A news report from last year about the raid:DONATE
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