Private property rights under assault in America

I’d like to tell you a story about a man named Russ Caswell, who’s family has owned and operated a motel in Tewksbury, Massachusetts for over 30 years.

After two generation of being family owned and operated this local business is threatened with closing its doors forever.

Now you might think that its because of hard times or economic troubles, but you would be wrong. You might also assume that he refused to pay his property taxes, and you would still be wrong. Mr. and Mrs. Caswell own their property free and clear.

The reason that this privately owned business might be shut down for good is because the local police, in conjunction with federal authorities, want to seize this family’s business and sell it for a profit which will be divided between federal and local authorities under a policy called equitable sharing set forth by federal civil forfeiture laws.

Now here is where most of you would assume that the owners broke some law or violated some local ordinance, and you would again be wrong.

So, why does the government want this man’s property, valued at around 1 million dollars? Well, because approximately 0.0005% of the people who have rented rooms from Mr. Caswell over the last 20 years have been arrested for committing crimes on his property.

You might then assume that he was conspiring with criminals or looking the other way, and once again you would be wrong. Mr. Caswell has had a history of working with authorities to stop criminal activity occurring on his property.

How then could any of this be possible, you ask?

In the United States Code and in most states, exist civil forfeiture laws which allow authorities to seize property which may be associated with criminal activity. No conviction is required and no laws must be broken by the owner of the property. Under a preponderance of evidence, which is the lowest burden of proof accepted by a court, any privately owned property can be seized and sold off to pad the budgets of local and federal law enforcement agencies.

Since the inception of this financial incentive in 1986 the federal forfeiture fund has grown to over 1.6 billion dollars in 2010.

Here in the Keystone State, authorities have raked in an average of 5.9 million dollars a year, between 2000 and 2008, from seizures in conjunction with federal authorities using the same civil forfeiture laws that are being used to rob Mr. Caswell of his business and his retirement.

In Pennsylvania, our law mirrors federal law and what is happening to Mr. Caswell could easily happen to any business owner reading this.

What makes matters worse is that the money gained from selling seized property, in Pennsylvania, is held in a fund that is not open to public scrutiny and is used at the discretion of local district attorneys with minimal oversight.

Many people are not even aware these laws exist and only discover them when they are staring down the barrel of a gun while police force them out of their homes and businesses.

Take the time to educate yourself on civil forfeiture laws by visiting http://www.ij.org and call your elected representatives to let them know you want these tyrannical laws taken off the books.

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5 Responses to Private property rights under assault in America

  1. Bill Tsafa says:

    Thanks for posting this story.

    Government Criminals are the worst sort of criminals in existence. They are what the framers of the Constitution feared the most.

  2. FRIENDS OF RUSS CASWELL says:

    Thanks for spreading the word. we have a facebook page up for support of the family. Friends of Russ Caswell.

  3. Sharon says:

    Russ is a great guy! The Caswells are honest hard working people they don’t deserve this. This family has helped others in so many ways. Please pass this on to your congressman and ask them to help fight this and other injustices like this.

  4. Rwolf says:

    Are Police Asset Forfeiture Squads Out of Control?

    Like a spreading plague, media reports of Police using Civil Asset Forfeiture to seize property from innocent owners is frightening off buyers of motels, bars, restaurants; residential rental property. Investors and property owners increasingly believe they are sitting ducks for police to confiscate their property. Many investors have noted the publicized civil forfeiture of Motel Caswell by Federal & Local Law Enforcement Agencies from the Caswell family that owned and operated the motel for two generations. The Caswells cooperated with police to abate infrequent drug problems at their motel caused by guests. The family Motel was free and clear and perhaps provided a police target for asset forfeiture. See: “United States v. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Mass.”

    Bars, restaurant and rental property owners Increasingly fear police; strongly believe that police can make it a point—to shut down or seize any bar, restaurant, motel or residential rental property by arresting a customer or tenant unbeknownst to the owner—possessing or distributing drugs; or undercover police / informants can steer drug sales or buys onto private property to forfeit it. Some owners of bars, restaurants and rental property become police informants, report on their customers—in the erroneous belief police won’t target their business or property. There are more than 350 laws and violations that can subject property to government asset forfeiture. Government civil asset forfeiture requires only a civil preponderance of evidence for police to forfeit property, little more than hearsay. No one need be charged with a crime. Corrupt Police can create the hearsay. If police civil forfeiture abuse is not brought under control it is foreseeable many Americans will be afraid to own real and personal property that comes in contact with the public.

    It is understandable that more business and rental property owners fear police. Almost every week, national news reports police, including high-ranking police and sheriffs being arrested for selling drugs, robbing, extorting or protecting drug dealers, planting evidence; filing false reports to send innocent persons to prison.

    Next: Police Drones—Recording Conversations In Your Home & Business To Forfeit Property?

    Police are salivating at the prospect of having drones to spy on lawful citizens. Congress approved 30,000 drones in U.S. Skies. That amounts to 600 drones for every state.

    It is problematic local police will want to use drones to record without warrants, personal conversations inside Americans’ homes and businesses.

    Despite some U.S. cities and counties banning or restricting police using drones to invade citizens’ privacy, local police have a strong financial incentive to call in Federal Drones, (Civil Asset Forfeiture Sharing) that can result from drone surveillance). Should (no-warrant drone surveillance evidence) be allowed in courts—circumventing the Fourth
    Amendment, for example (drones’ recording conversations in private homes and businesses) expect federal and local police civil asset property forfeitures to escalate.

    Civil asset forfeiture requires only a preponderance of civil evidence for federal government to forfeit property, little more than hearsay: any conversation picked up by a drone inside a home or business, police can take out of context to initiate arrests; or civil asset forfeiture to confiscate a home/business and other assets. Local police now circumvent state laws that require someone be convicted before police can civilly forfeit their property—by turning their investigation over to a Federal Government Agency that can rebate to the referring local police department 80% of assets forfeited. Federal Government is not required to charge anyone with a crime to forfeit property. There are more than 350 laws and violations that can subject property to government asset forfeiture that have nothing to do with illegal drugs.

  5. ren says:

    scott county sheriff deputies like eric greenleaf and jeremy johnson are 2 of the most crooked lying pigs in Ky

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