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FBI Seizures and Forfeitures

In civil asset forfeiture cases, the FBI might seize U.S. currency, cryptocurrency, Cashiers’ checks, money orders, gold or other precious metals, bank accounts, vehicles, vessels, or aircraft.  Under limited circumstances, the FBI can seize valuable property and initiate the forfeiture proceeding even though no arrest was ever made.

After the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seizes money or other assets, the FBI must give notice that the property was seized for federal forfeiture because of a specific violation of federal law. The laws and procedures applicable to the forfeiture process are found at 19 U.S.C. Sections 1602 – 1619, 18 U.S.C. Section 983, and 28 C.F.R. Parts 8 and 9.

In civil asset forfeiture cases, the notice explains how to file a petition for remission or a petition for mitigation with an offer in compromise.

Filing the verified claim for court action before the deadline is the ONLY way to contest the legality of the initial detention or seizure. If you don’t file a verified claim, then you are essentially stipulating to the legality of the seizure and the FBI’s right to take the property in the civil asset forfeiture proceedings.

The FBI rarely grants any petition for remission or mitigation. Most petitions are ultimately denied with a form letter. The government only considers granting a petition for remission or mitigation, under limited circumstances, to pardon all or part of the property from the forfeiture.

Instead of letting the FBI decide what happens with the money or other seized property, hire an attorney to file a claim for court action. The claim triggers a 90-day deadline for the Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) to either return the money or file a complaint for forfeiture in the U.S. District Court.

Attorney for Filing a Claim after an FBI Seizure

You can hire an attorney at Sammis Law Firm to help you contest the forfeiture of the property seized by the FBI. The claim can be filed immediately after the seizure or within the time period listed in your personal notice letter from the FBI.

In some cases, your verified claim can be filed in the U.S. District Court within 30 days after the date of the final publication of the notice of seizure, but only if you never received the personal notice letter.

In the verified claim filed with the Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist of the nearest FBI Field Office, your attorney will describe the seized property, explain your ownership or other interest in the property, and list your Asset ID Number.

The claim must be made under oath that is subject to the penalty of perjury or other meets the requirements of an unsworn statement under penalty of perjury as provided in 18 U.S.C. Section 983(a)(2)(C) and 28 U.S.C. Section 1746.

If your U.S. Currency was seized by the FBI at the airport, then contact attorney Leslie Sammis about the best way to get the money back quickly. We can help you file the verified claim. If the seizure created a hardship, we can demand the release of the seized property during the pendency of forfeiture proceedings under the specific conditions explained in 18 U.S.C. Section 983(f).

Call 813-250-0500.


Requirements of a Claim for Property Seized by the FBI

When submitting a verified claim for court action, the paperwork must be submitted to the local FBI Field Office and to the attention of the Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist. The FBI field office locations and telephone numbers can be found at www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field. The submitting documentation should reference the Asset ID Number.

When claiming a hardship because of the FBI seizure of property, the claimant must establish the following:

  • the possessory interest in the property;
  • the claimant’s sufficient ties to the community to assure that the property will be available at the time of trial; and
  • a showing that the government’s continued possession will cause substantial hardship to the claimant.

The hardship provisions are found in 18 U.S.C. Section 983(f) and 28 C.F.R. Section 8.15. Some types of assets are not eligible for hardship release.


Does the FBI Seize Money at the Airport for Forfeiture?

When it comes to seizures of money at the airport, most seizures involve agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), or the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).

The FBI makes many of the seizures of U.S. Currency at some airports including the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, often called the San Juan Airport (SJU). Every day, more than 20 commercial airlines fly into and out of the airport in San Juan which is located in Isla Verde, in the Carolina district.

In addition to agents with CBP, HSI, DEA, and FBI, seizures of cash for forfeiture at the San Juan Airport in Puerto Rico might involve agents with the Puerto Rico Police Department.,

After the seizure, the federal agency will issue a paper receipt that might reference forfeiture pursuant to 21 U.S.C. 881. We are familiar with the tactics used by the FBI, CBP, HSI, DEA, partners in the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force, and Puerto Rico’s Joint Forces of Rapid Action (FURA), when they seize money at airports throughout the United States including the airport in San Juan in Puerto Rico.

The FBI’s asset forfeiture section has a team of attorneys and paralegal specialists working on ways to keep you separated from your money. After a seizure of cash for forfeiture at the airport in San Juan, any complaint for forfeiture must be filed by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico located at 350 Carlos Chardón Avenue, San Juan, Puerto Rico 00918.

The authorities consider Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to be ideal targets for Transnational Criminal Organizations seeking to import narcotics into the Continental United States for two reasons. The first reason is its geographical location in the Caribean Region. The second reason is the status of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as territories of the United States.


Role of the FBI’s Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist

The FBI’s Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist evaluations the forfeiture cases and helps prepare it for litigation. During the evaluation, the Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist will determine the identity of any person requiring legal notice by obtaining documents, records, or testimony.

The Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist prepares legal notices for publication and performs administrative activities associated with the seizure, storage, and disposal of both forfeitable and abandoned property. The Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist also maintains contact with attorneys representing petitioners and defendants.

The FBI considers forfeiture to be an effective law enforcement tool. Forfeiture helps the FBI disrupt criminal organizations. Unfortunately, innocent people can get caught up in the process. An experienced attorney can help you fight to get back seized property during a civil asset forfeiture proceeding.

When the money or property is returned to the petitioner, the Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist for the FBI prepares the closing paperwork. In some cases, you might be asked to sign the Unified Financial Management System (UFMS) Vendor Request Form.

You might also be asked to sign an indemnity agreement which provides:

FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION

INDEMNITY AGREEMENT

This agreement is made between _________________________________________________________(Title and Firm Name, if applicable) (Address) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States Department of Justice. This agreement is made in consideration of the return of a ____________(Description of Property) registered to/owned by __________________ which was seized in the course of a criminal or civil investigation and for other consideration, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged.

It is hereby agreed to unconditionally release and hold harmless the Federal Bureau of Investigation, its officers, employees and Agents, from any and all claims, demands, damages, causes of actions or suits, or whatever kind and description, and wheresoever situated, that might now exist or hereafter exist by reason of or growing out of affecting or indirectly, the seizure or the return of the above described property.

Executed this _______ day of ____________________, 2021

_______________________________

Witness Signature and Date of Person Executing

_______________________________

Witness Signature of Supervisory Special Agent

_______________________________

Signature of Paralegal Specialist

BURÓ FEDERAL DE INVESTIGACIONES

ACUERDO DE INDEMNIZACIÓN

Este es un acuerdo entre __________________(Título y nombre de la firma, si aplica) (Dirección) y el Buró Federal de Investigaciones del Departamento de Justicia de los Estados Unidos. Este acuerdo es en consideración por la devolución de ___________________________ (Descripción de la propiedad) registrado a nombre de/que pertenece a________________, el cual fue incautado en el transcurso de una investigación criminal o civil y por alguna otra consideración, y el cual por la presente se acusa su recibo. _______________________________(Firma o persona involucrada) siendo la/el _________________________________________ de la propiedad, como evidencia la copia de ____________________________ con fecha de __________________. (Título, registro, contacto, nota, etc.)

Por la presente se acuerda liberar incondicionalmente y eximir de responsabilidad al Buró Federal de Investigaciones, sus oficiales, empleados y Agentes, de cualquier y todo tipo de reclamos, demandas, daños, causa para acciones o demandas, de cualquier tipo y descripción, en cualquier lugar, que exista actualmente o en el futuro por causa de, o que resulte de, ya sea de manera indirecta, como resultado de la confiscación o devolución de la propiedad descrita anteriormente.

Otorgado el ___ de ___________ del 2021.

_____________________________

Testigo Firma de la persona que lo otorga y la fecha

_____________________________

Testigo Firma del Agente Especial Supervisor

_____________________________

Firma de la Especialista Paralegal


Additional Resources

FBI Legal Notices for Abandoned Property – The FBI publishes a list of legal notices concerning all abandoned or unclaimed property in the custody of the FBI. The description of the property shows its location and the FBI office that has custody of the property. An attorney can help you file a claim for the property pursuant to Title 41, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 128-48. When submitting documentation, please reference the Asset ID Number. Submit all documents to the nearest FBI Field Office, Attention: Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist. The FBI locations and telephone numbers can be found at www.fbi.gov. The deadline to file the claim is 30 days from the date the property was first published in this notice. If a claim is not filed within that time period, then the title to the property will vest in the United States.

FBI on Asset Forfeiture – Visit the website of the FBI to find the answers to frequently asked questions including: What is asset forfeiture? Why does the FBI use asset forfeiture? What types of property are most often subject to forfeiture? What is the difference between administrative forfeiture and civil judicial forfeiture? Learn more civil judicial forfeiture cases referred to as an in rem (against the property) action when no arrest or conviction occurs. In civil judicial forfeiture for property seized by an FBI agent, an individual has the right to contest the seizure through trial proceedings. Find several examples of forfeiture actions and how they proceeded through the system.

Wiki on Federal Bureau of Investigation – The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) serves s the main federal law enforcement agency in the United States which is responsible for U.S. counter-terrorism efforts, criminal investigations services, and domestic intelligence. As a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community operating under the Department of Justice, the FBI reports to the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General of the United States.


This article was last updated on Friday, April 30, 2021.

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