Things We Think Our Friends and Clients Should Know
In news that is important for gold and silver investors, we reported in March about an FBI raid on a private storage vault company in Beverly Hills. While the indictments were against the vault company itself, and there were no allegations against the company’s clients, the government broke into the customer’s individual and private storage boxes, taking all their contents and personal possessions.
The Orange County Register reported, “Customers of U.S. Private Vaults learned the FBI raided the Beverly Hills company after an indictment for federal crimes. More to their horror, those customers learned their precious valuables were being held at an undisclosed location and that they would need to identify themselves to the FBI to reclaim their property.”
“In other words,” the Register wrote, “people must prove their own innocence to secure their property’s return.”
The Institute for Justice, the national law firm that litigates for individual rights and liberty, has now taken the case, launching a class action suit claiming the FBI exceeded its warrant when it took possession of the contents of 800 safe deposit boxes.
From an IJ press release:
“The FBI’s warrant for the raid did not include permission to do a criminal seizure or search of the contents of the rented boxes – only U.S. Private Vaults’ own business property. The government promised it would only look into the boxes to identify ownership, but it immediately broke its word. Once in the location, agents opened hundreds of boxes, ran any currency in front of drug sniffing dogs, and made copies of records in peoples’ boxes.
“Now the government is forcing people to submit to an investigation to show they owned their property legally before it is returned. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleges that the government’s shocking behavior violates the Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights of Jennifer and Paul Snitko, Joseph Ruiz, Tyler Gothier, and all others who rented boxes at U.S. Private Vaults.
“ ‘The government’s dragnet search of innocent peoples’ private security boxes is the most outrageous Fourth Amendment abuse that the Institute for Justice has ever seen,’ said IJ Senior Attorney Robert Frommer. ‘It is like the government breaking into every apartment in a building because the landlord was dealing drugs in the lobby.’ “
“Jennifer and Paul Snitko never thought they would need to worry about the federal government seizing the items they placed in the box they rented from U.S. Private Vaults. They stored possessions valuable mainly to them: Paul’s father’s will, backup hard drives, old family watches and Paul’s flight log. The Snitkos filed a claim form with the FBI, but when they asked an agent what the process was to get their property returned, the agent replied that she did not know. And when they asked when they would get their property back, the agent conveyed that there wasn’t any time frame.
“Privacy and property are essential rights of all Americans,” said IJ Senior Attorney Rob Johnson. “The government treats box holders as somehow suspicious just because they held their property in a private and secure facility. But privacy is a constitutional right, not a ground for suspicion. If the government can get away with this here, we all will be at risk of similar intrusion in our own private space.”
We will continue to track this case for Republic Monetary Exchange’s friends and clients.
It is always a good time to cite the Fourth Amendment, as we did in March: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause….”