United States. Congress. House. Committee on the J.

Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act : hearing before the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session, on H.R. 1916 ... July 22, 1996 online

. (page 3 of 37)
Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on the JCivil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act : hearing before the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session, on H.R. 1916 ... July 22, 1996 → online text (page 3 of 37)
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the FBI did not keep her cash in an evidence locker, but deposited her money into a bank, co-
mmgling it with other people's money and thus destroying her evidence and proof of innocence.

The morning government agents banged on Mom's door telling her they were there to seize her
home, it included the local police, County Sheriffs E>ept., U.S. Marshall's Service, several FBI
agents, and [RS agents. All this force to take some property from one. innocent, unarmed. law
abiding 70 year old, 8S pound woman I immediately called our family attorney and he met me
at Mom's house. It had previously been said to me by an agent, "They want to take
everything your mother has a make her tell what she knows about your brother, and
maybe it will make him come back, too I"

When I arrived at Mom's home she was in a daze. She said she asked the agents where she
was suppose to live and was told, "/ dont care where you go, but you have a half-hour to
pack up and get out I" Thankfully, our attorney was able to reach an agreement that allowed
Mom to "rent" her own house from the government until the case went to thai. The horror of
the forfeiture squad invading her home still brings regular nightmares to mom 6 years later.


I did everything in my power to convince the governinent agents that they were making a huge
misuke and that mom was not a criminal. To them that didn't matter. Since they COULD seize
her property, they did An agent said to me, "IVhen I first look this caxe to my boss, he said
not even to mess around with it. that it was just another stupid marijuana case, until I
showed him how many assets we could getl' I spent many, many cooperative and truthful
hours trying to convince them that this was insane, and fitially realized it would cost me more
going to trial than her properties were worth I eventually made a settlement with them and
Mom got to keep a little of what she worked her whole life for. They took most of it, including
her dignity and love for our government.

I am here for my mother and our Country. It is too late to help her case, and besides, I had the
government sign a paper that they could never bother her again. I watit to make sure they can
never do this to another mother with a bad kid I have been on this crusade since I saw a
Readers Digest article in 1992, titled. Is It Police Work or Plunder, about rutionwide forfeiture
abuse and Congressman Hyde's eflfott to reform this law. I bought a computer, joined an Online
Internet Service and have been emailing thousands of unaware citizens to educate them about
this barbanc civil forfeiture law. Nobody thinks it is right when they learn how it is used, except
prosecutors who do not want a proof provision in the law. One prosecutor told me. "Citizens
don't need a proof provision, those in charge of a case are perfectly capable of
determining who is guilty]" That Statement, I was told by a Constitutional law professor, is the
meaning of tyranny

I love the America I knew growing up in the 40's and 50's. but am scared to death of the police


sute this Country is turning into wixb mors and mare laws allowing forfeiture. IT MAS TO
STOP. Our Founding Fathers put their lives on the line agamst t}Tsnny and ca\-alier attitudes In
my opinion, no real or personal property should be forfeited except m cnminal cases Eliminate
this ridiculous, insane, corrupting law. or re^write it to include proof, fairness and compassion.
It is ruining people's lives and is just another national disgrace. Thank you

Other material furnished to you:

The book I titled, U.S. v. Grandma, and the two flyers I email out all over America.


Book Review by Kathy Bergman

March 19% FEAR Chronicles Forfeiture Endangers Amencan Rights


in October of 1989, Man,' Miller's youngest son was indicted by a midwestem grand jury
for trafficking in manjuana. Over the next four years, Mary was forced to pa\ . liieralK .
for her son's crimes

Never charged with a crime herself, 75 year old Mary Miller had S70.000 in cash, her
home and several pieces of rental property seized by the federal government, because
they believed she knew of her son's cnmes. Her money, the government said, was not her
life's savings as she claimed, but rather, the ill-gotten gains of Toby Miller's life of cnme.
Her real estate, the government went on to reason, was used to "facilitate" Toby's cnmes
when he lived as a tenant in Mary's duplex, and therefore should be forfeited also In
addition to that, she couldn't use the old dates on the cash in her defense because the FBI
co-mingled her money by depositing it into a bank.

From October 1989 through August 1995, 122 newspaper headlines in a small
midwestem city focused on Mary Miller's troubles. Her oldest son. Charles, and his
family were subjected to local scrutiny and discussion also. In an attempt to regain his
mother's property by producing an accurate chronologic record, Charles Miller set about
detailing the facts surrounding Mary Miller's forfeitures, which eventually resulted m a
book he titled U.S. vs. Grandma.

Because we were so impressed with Mr. Miller's first-hand account of his battle with the
forfeiture squads on behalf of his innocent mother, FEAR, has agreed to publish a soft-
back version of L'.S. vs. Grandma. Please purchase this book and use it to educate
yourself to the realities of how our country's forfeiture laws are being used Then, call or
wTiie your Congressman and Senators and demand they change the lav\ In fact, why not
purchase a second book for your legislators, and request they read it! Congress names
and addresses in Washington, DC. can be had at 1-202-224-3121

U.S. v.v Grandma is available for SI 5 from FEAR. Foundation, 20 Sunnvside. Suite A-
204. Mill Valley, CA 94941. 1-415-388-8128 http;./ www. fear. org

"Mary, we're here to seize your house. I don't care where
you go but you have a half hour to pack up and get out !"

" You have a half hour to pack up and get out '."

Civil propcm forfeiture laws - The landlord was not charged with anMhing and was free to go. but his rental
properrv was seized Unknown to him. pot was sold out of one of his tenuis The US Supreme Coun upheld
the seizing ot a wife's car because her husband used it to solicit a prostitute In each case, the owner's
innocence was irrelevant, because the charges were just against their propcrn . not the owTier

Authonties ask airline ticket and travel counters to watch for people who pay cash for their tickets ^^'hlle a
black man was waiting for his plane, on mere suspicion, the law showed up and seized his cash and then his
landscaping business He was free to go. because the charge was just against his assets \ federal prosector
was stopped for speeding, knowing what police were doing in his district, he was nervous because he had S300
cash on him

The intent of civil forfeiture laws was to take the ill-gotten gains of real cnminals. but it also tempts the
imagination of many authonties because there is no provision in tbe law for proof. A prosecutor said.
"Citizens don't need proof protection, those m charge of a case are perfectly capable of determining who (what)
IS guilrv '" A federal prosecutor in New Jersey was recently found guilty on 30 counts of forfeiture abuse and
will be going to pnson. after ruining many people's lives F E.A.R brought many cases of abuse before Senate
heanngs Congressman Conyers (D) said back then, "It wasn't suppose to work this way '" But it still is

"Mary, we're here to seize your house. I don 't care where
you go but you have a half hour to pack up and gel out .'"


• ifannhmg of \ours is accused of wTongdoing, should it have to be PROVEN in a court of law "* Yes No

• PROOF BY I choose one) c clear & convincing, = beyond a reasonable doubt

• Should vou have a heanng before real or personal propeny seizure, and absent owner protection '' Yes No

• Would \ou like the Supreme Court to rule whether property forfeiture is even Constitutional '' Yes No

Congressman Hyde (R-IL) is sponsonng forfeiture reform legislation. H.R.I916 Other legislators need
educated about the abuse and how you feel about it Please speak up or this legal plunder will continue. Make
blank copies of this convenient flyer for fnends Circle the answers and mail them to Congress t names and
addresses m Washington. D C. 1-202-224-3121) Lobby your State legislators and localities, too.

• Another idea, read the book ('.5. V. Gram/ma It will astound you ' Mail your legislator (s) a copy of the
book with this flyer folded in it. To order L'.S. v. Grandma, pnnt clearly on the order form, clip it out and mail
It with SI 5 ea pavable to F E.A.R Foundation ( Forfeiture Endangers Amencan Rights), 20 Sunnyside, Suite
A204. Mill Valley. CA 94941 1-415-388-8128 htTp.//www fear.org Thanks for your interest in due process

Name , Address

Cit%. StatcZp . Phn E-mail_

Mail book (s) at SI 5 each. Total end S Signature Date_


Mr. Hyde. Well, thank you, Mr. Cutkomp. And let me say this:
I have a tremendous feeling of guilt, and I will tell you why. We
let this happen. We let this happen. We keep the law in its status
quo, and, as I hear these stories, I am chilled, I am appalled.

And the Government is an engine. It doesn't have any morals. It
has the morals of the people wno drive the engine. And some of
them are decent, honorable people — most of them are decent, hon-
orable people, but some of them are not. And for us to permit under
the law this type of conduct to go on is our fault, and I feel very
badly about it. And I think this is a bill that cries out — I am sure
it can be improved, but let's get the best bill we can, and let's make
this illegal. Let's make this terribly wrong. Legally, it is already
morally terribly wrong.

Mr. Cutkomp. Yes, it is.

Mr. Hyde. I thank you for your courage, and Mr. Jones, for com-
ing forward. You are soldiers in a very important battle, a battle
of more than just due process: Decency.

I thank you.

Mr, Komie, would you give us your name, please?

Mr. KOMIE. Stephen M. Komie.

Mr. Hyde. What is your business or profession?

Mr. Komie. I am an attorney and currently serving as secretary
of the Illinois State Bar Association, which is proud to boast you
as a member.

Mr. Hyde. Thank you. And I think you and I shared lunch Fri-

Mr. Komie. Yes, we did.

Mr. Hyde. Mr. Komie, would you tell us what you have come
here to tell us, please?


Mr. Komie. I have come here to speak on behalf of the 34,000
members and a growing family of members — after every graduation
of law school, we get another crowd — who support your efforts on
behalf of the victims of the tyranny of asset forfeiture. This is one
of the worst abuses of King George which has been incorporated
into our law, and one need only visit your private office in this
building to see the portrait of George Washington at Valley Forge
to know that you are committed to eradicating the abuses of the
Americans' rights anywhere they might be.

We are confronted in Illinois with a system which has run
amuck, which tends to go to the law enforcement officials. When-
ever anyone has cash on their person, the law enforcement officials
grab the cash and make the person justify their ownership of the
cash at a later time, a later date and a later location.

In my printed remarks, which I have sent forward to the commit-
tee, I have discussed a number of abuses of this system of what we
in Illinois call "contingent fee law enforcement." This is no different
than parking tickets and a quota system. I am sure that if you sub-
poenaed the Justice Department's memorandums between their of-
fices, you will undoubtedly discover that quotas are given to indi-
vidual offices, that production is expected, and they have to make
so much each year, just as the people in Chicago who issue parking


tickets are expected to issue so many parking tickets and raise the '
city revenue. j

Mr. Hydk. Are you suggesting, Mr. Komie, that the Justice De- '
partment imposes quotas on the various ofTices, Federal offices, ^
around the country? Do they have to produce so much in asset for-
feiture revenue? I

Mr. KoMiK. Oh, yes. In fact, vou might even see some of the ma- ,
terials that have been printed for this hearing. In one of those,
there was a 1990 memorandum which indicated that there were \
budget quotas that had to be met and that they would be embar- !
rassed if these quotas weren't met. !

So it is in print, and it is circulating. I would suspect one of your ;
subpoenas could flush out the exact details and how much each of-
fice is expected to produce.

Mr. Hyde. Who is the issuing office and who is the recipient of-
fice of these directives?

Mr. Komie. My guess would be it would be downtown Washing-
ton, DC, right at the Justice Department, that whoever is in charge
of that unit, the Assistant Attorney General or his designee.

Mr. Hyde. It goes to a U.S. Attorney's Office?

Mr. Komie. Yes.

Mr. Hyde. Out in the field?

Mr. Komie. Yes. Assistants have told me that they have to keep
up. They can't just let these cases go or settle. They have to have
so much money per year.

Mr. Hyde. That's fascinating. Please go ahead.

Mr. Komie. Now, with respect to some of the people that I have
mentioned in my printed remarks, I think everybody in this room
would agree that the American family farm is an institution which
we have all endeavored to save one way or another, and we know
that there are ownership problems in passing the farm down
through the family. |

Well, in Illinois, our legislature doesn't think that farms should
be forfeited when people have marijuana growing on the farm.
After all, Illinois was one of the states that the Federal Govern-
ment planted marijuana in order to get hemp during World War
II, for both the liberty ships and also for the Navy. So that mari-
juana grows wild in Illinois. It also is sometimes cultivated by some
of the children of farm owners. Yet, the legislature doesn't think
that this is an appropriate method to be used, forfeiting the farm
because one of the family members may grow marijuana on it or
it may grow wild on the farm.

The Stouts received from their father the family farm. They had
a half interest in the farm. On the farm remained Mr. Stout's sis-
ter, Mrs. Accardi. She was married to Greg Accardi. Greg Accardi,
unfortunately, was growing marijuana behind the shed, in the
back. The police did a flyover with the helicopter, looked down, saw
marijuana, kicked in tne door at the family farm, came on in,
seized the plants, of course, and then seized the farm.

When the case came on for trial, there was a small problem.
They didn't have a consent to search. None of the records of the
Illinois State Police indicated they had a consent to search. Yet the
day of trial the police officer who searched the farm walked in with
a consent form with purportedly Greg's signature on it. That was


sent to the State police laboratory and it discovered that the signa-
ture was a forgery; that Mr. Accardi had never signed for entry
into the farm.

So what did they do? They called their friends downtown at 219
South Dearborn in the Federal building and said, seize the farm,
and there they went. They seized the entire farm; never served no-
tice on the Stouts in Michigan, where they lived. The only way it
was published was through USA Today. There was no delivery
even by a postal carrier of notice of the seizure of the farm.

The Stouts had only been on the farm at Christmastime or for
pheasant hunting when marijuana doesn't grow. Yet they end up
in Federal court, innocent owners, one-half interest in the farm,
nothing to do with the growing of the dope one way or the other,
yet they find themselves in court defending this over 3 years now.
They can't have possession of the farm. The U.S. marshals seized
the farm. They made an agreement for Greg and Holly Accardi to
remain on the farm by renting, and then have left them in a situa-
tion where the only way out of the case short of trial is the Govern-
ment wants them to pay the Government money as a settlement

Mr. Hyde. This is still pending?

Mr. KOMIE. Still pending in U.S. District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois.

Mr. Hyde. Eastern Division?

Mr. KoMiE. Eastern Division, where you are a member.

In addition, I have had the opportunity to represent a grand-
mother, too. There is Mrs. Levine of Los Angeles, CA, had a grand-
son who was a gentleman who was in the drug business, big time,
no doubt about it.

He was indicted, had all his assets seized. But Ms. Levine had
an estate plan, which many Americans use, and that is they have
a trust in the bank where they put the money in in their name and
in the event they pass away some loved one ends up with the ac-

When they sent out the forfeiture warrants they collected every-
thing with name Hershman on it, which was her grandson's name.
Ms. Levine had to live off her social security for 3 years, until some
assistant in Chicago thought it was OK to return the money.

Despite repeated demands, the woman had nothing whatsoever
to do with drugs, she was in a retirement home, but her money
was seized by the Federal Government and she was forced to en-
dure attorney's fees to get it back.

Then there was Mr. Tan. He was walking through Union Station
in Chicago on his way between trains. Because he was Chinese, he
stood out in our station because we don't have a lot of Chinese
traveling through Union Station. They cornered him in the first
class lounge. They made him open his suitcase. His entire capital
for his business was in that suitcase. They took him half a mile to
their office. In the office they took the money.

They then counted the money in a machine that had been con-
taminated by drugs, a money-counting machine, which had never
been cleaned, and then subjected it to a dog search. Based on that
they made him come all the way from Hong Kong back to the Unit-

35-668 96-2


ed States in order to get his money back, and it wasn't until he had
a trial; there was no attempt at settlement.

Mr. Hyde. How much money?

Mr. KOMIE. We are talking about $230,000.

Mr. Hyde. He was carrying it in cash?

Mr. KOMIE. Yes. Like Mr. Jones said, if you have cash you get
a substantial discount when you buy a product. If you buy with
cash, you don't have to pay the 3 percent the credit card companies
charge, Americans want cash in their businesses and so they read-
ily accept it.

But the Government has a different idea. They believe no Amer-
ican should carry cash, only a credit card. Once you have cash on
yourself, you must justify it. Interestingly enough, there is no clerk
of the circuit court in Illinois who will accept anything but cash;
you can't get somebody out on bond without cash. So if someone is
arrested on the way to the bond office to bail their child out and
the money is attempted to be forfeited, that is the only way you
can get them out of jail is with cash.

Mr. Hyde. We have heard testimony about testing of the money
for suspicion of drugs and dogs sniffing it. Do you have any infor-
mation on the prevalence of evidence that paper money, currency
has been near drugs? I am told that almost all money has

Mr. KOMIE. I would refer you to the American Bar Association
report that Ms. Reno's purse had been subjected to a dog sniff and
it was discovered that the dog had an affinity for some of the
money in her purse; so the prevalence of the contamination of the
currency reaches as high as Ms. Reno's purse.

And from what I understand, based on the indications I have
had, Mr. Angelos, a chemist with the Drug Enforcement Adminis-
tration, has published a memorandum informing them that there
is contamination on every one of the rollers in the Federal Reserve
Banks of the United States, that as soon as the money is deposited
in the Federal Reserve Bank or any member banks and goes
through the roller system, the contamination is placed on other
bills. So it is well known inside the Grovernment, at any rate, that
there is a contamination problem brought about by the bills run-
ning through the system themselves.

Mr. Hyde. So that is not a very efficacious way of determining
whether their money has been involved in a drug transaction with
this person?

Mr. KoMiE. Let me tell you, to law enforcement people it is a
joke. They take the money to the bank and deposit it immediately.
They don't even send it to the laboratory for testing.

As the gentleman to my left told you, his mother's money was
evaporated into the banking system so a laboratory could never
test the money. And that would be the key to proving innocence.

What happens if you have one bill in 300 that has some cocaine
on it. Do you lose all other 299 bills because one bill is contami-
nated? That is the problem. Law enforcement agencies don't even
take that seriously. I have never had a case they haven't deposited
the money directly in the bank.

Mr. Hyde, Please proceed.


Mr. KOMIE. Lastly, there is Mr. Lombardo. Mr. Lombardo oper-
ated a pizza parlor in Chicago. He is an elderly gentleman. His
life's work went into that pizza parlor. He was an immigrant. He
didn't believe in banks.

A burglar by profession and drug addict claimed that stolen prop-
erty was being sold on the back steps of the pizza parlor in the
parking lot. The Chicago police got a warrant for the premises,
found no stolen property, no drugs, but half a million dollars of Mr.
Lombardo's lifetime savings sitting in a barrel in the back of the
pizzeria in a boarded-up dumbwaiter, which was his bank.

They seized the monev. Since they were Chicago police officers,
it went straight to the Chicago Police Department, deposited imme-
diately in a bank so that Mr. Lombardo had no opportunity to have
the money tested.

They took the money off the premises to the police station where
they claim a dog sniffed it. Other than that, they had no informa-
tion at that time that this had anything to do with drugs whatso-

Mr. Lombardo filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County a motion
to return his property. A judge heard that motion, but while the
motion was pending, when the Chicago Police Department realized
that they weren't going to be able to hold on to the money under
the law, they petitioned the Drug Enforcement Administration and
the IRS to come in and seize it. So a warrant was issued by a Fed-
eral magistrate under the forfeiture laws before the State court
judge had finished his work on the case, ordering the seizure of the

There was a little problem the Government encountered, and
that is, under the Federal law once a State court takes possession
of the money, the Federal Government has to sit back and wait.
They can come to court and litigate the ownership or they can
bring their forfeiture petition in front of a State judge. Instead,
they declined.

They waited until Mr. Lombardo had won his motion for return
of property, and then obtained a court order from a Federal judge
ordering Mr. Lombardo to bring the check — this is no longer the al-
leged offending money, this is the money from the clerk of the Cir-
cuit Court of Cook County, IL, which is coming out by check, to
bring the check to the Federal building and voluntarily, via court
order, hand it to the U.S. marshal for forfeiture.

The case proceeds, Mr. Lombardo never had a day in court. Not
one witness has been heard from the witness stand. Not one wit-
ness set foot in the building. His half a million dollars was forfeited
2 weeks ago by a Federal judge granting summary judgment based
on an affidavit of an IRS agent who heard vis-a-vis the informant
who talked about the stolen property that turned out not to exist,
that there was cocaine in a delivery truck out in back of the pizza
parlor and that he stole the cocaine and used it and therefore he
suspected drugs were being used at the pizza parlor.

Mr. Hyde. Was there proof that he knew of these transactions
or that he consented to them?

Mr. KOMIE. Mr. Lombardo filed an affidavit in answer to the
summary judgment saying that the money was never earned as a
result of the narcotics business. But summary judgment was grant-


ed because the burden of proof shifted to Mr. Lombardo to prove
he was innocent and the (government by appearing in front of a
magistrate, ex parte, no lawyer there representing Mr. Lombardo,
that was sufficient to force the burden of proof on Mr. Lombardo

Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on the JCivil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act : hearing before the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session, on H.R. 1916 ... July 22, 1996 → online text (page 3 of 37)