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FBI Criticized by Appeals Court for Infringing Constitutional Rights in Beverly Hills Raid

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The FBI’s conduct during a 2021 raid on a Beverly Hills business suspected of money laundering have been severely criticized by a federal appeals court. 

Last week, the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the bureau violated the Fourth Amendment rights of individuals whose belongings were seized from safe deposit boxes without individual criminal warrants.

Represented by the Institute for Justice, several plaintiffs celebrated what they described as a resounding victory for themselves and others affected by the FBI’s actions. The ruling requires federal officials to destroy inventory records of hundreds of box holders not charged with a crime.

During the March 2021 raid on US Private Vaults, agents confiscated approximately $86 million in cash along with jewelry, gold bars, silver, and other valuables. Subsequently, the FBI initiated civil asset forfeiture proceedings against a portion of the seized property.

The court’s decision highlighted the government’s overreach, noting that the FBI’s actions exceeded the scope of its warrant and violated established rules. 

FBI and US Attorney’s Office

fbi-criticized-by-appeals-court-for-infringing-constitutional-rights-in-beverly-hills-raid
The FBI’s conduct during a 2021 raid on a Beverly Hills business suspected of money laundering have been severely criticized by a federal appeals court.

The Fourth Amendment was adopted as a result of abuses of power during the colonial era, and Circuit Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. voiced worry about the absence of restrictions on such inventory searches.

Plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit, including Jeni Pearsons and her husband Michael Storc, hailed the ruling as a victory for civil rights. Pearsons, whose property was seized during the raid, expressed satisfaction at the court’s rebuke of what she termed “extraordinary overreach” by the FBI.

However, while the ruling represents a significant legal setback for the FBI, Rob Frommer, a Senior Attorney at the Institute for Justice, cautioned that it may not curb civil forfeiture abuse without tangible consequences for the bureau.

The FBI and the US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles declined to comment on the ruling, although the latter stated its readiness to comply with the relief sought by the plaintiffs in the case. As the legal battle continues, the ruling stands as a pivotal moment in the ongoing debate over civil asset forfeiture and government accountability.

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