WINNEMUCCA, NV — After a successful run at the casinos in Las Vegas, a man carrying a large sum of cash fell victim to a thieving police officer on his way back to California. Without charging him with a crime or even giving him a speeding ticket, the cop seized 50,000 and let him go. This practice of highway robbery is perfectly legal.
Tan Nguyen was the lucky gambler who was stopped along I-80 in Humboldt County. Nguyen was stopped by Deputy Lee Dove for only going 3 miles per hour above the posted speed limit.
To establish the grounds for searching Nguyen’s vehicle, the deputy began to claim that he smelled drugs.
“I just smelled weed. I know I did. I know I smelled weed,” said Dove in the dash-cam video available from KLAS-TV.
Deputy Dove is a skilled narcotics agent that knows that accusing someone of drug trafficking is all that is required to walk away with their money and property. The policy that enables him to do this is known as civil asset forfeiture. “How much money you got?” asks the deputy.
No drugs were found in the subsequent search. But that was no problem for the deputy. He had discovered Nguyen’s money — $50,000 in cash and $10,000 in cashier’s checks.
“That’s not yours, is it?” the deputy asked.
“That’s mine,” Nguyen responded.
“Well, I’m seizing it,” the deputy declared.
Nguyen protested that the officer had no right to rob him. But Deputy Dove reminded him that government theft is legal in a police state.
“Everyday I do this,” said the Deputy Dove. “It’s all I do for a living. It’s drug interdiction and I get money.”
“The only reason why you have that cash is because it’s related to some sort of illegal activity,” said the deputy. “You know it and I know it.”
He goes on: “With everybody, that’s what I do because they don’t want the problems or the headaches so they abandon the money. They take what they’ve got in their wallet, or in this case cashiers checks, and they bolt.”
According to a subsequent lawsuit, Dove told Nguyen that he would be arrested unless he “got in his car and drove off and forgot this ever happened.”
“I don’t have all day to sit here debating it,” Dove impatiently stated. He took the money and let the driver go.
Motorists like Nguyen are essentially accused of criminal activities without actually being charged with a crime. They are then forced to prove their innocence or — in many cases — abandon the money. The expenses of legal fees make it cost prohibitive to fight back, and government agencies are well-oiled machines when it comes to theft.
Nguyen spent his remaining $10,000 in cashier’s checks to pay an attorney to file a lawsuit against Humboldt County. Ultimately he got his cash returned. But Deputy Lee Dove has not been fired, as the underlying tactic he routinely uses is exactly what is expected from enforcers of the War on Drugs.
The Fifth Amendment states, “No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” The concept of seizing money without criminal charges needs to be abolished immediately in the spirit of the constitution and in the interest of preserving liberty. No one’s cash or property is safe as long as it remains standard practice.
Call for the abolition to Civil Asset Forfeiture.