DUBUQUE, IA — A widow’s bank account was seized by the IRS and she now faces criminal charges for depositing her legal inheritance money in lumps instead of all together.
Janet Malone, 68, had $18,775 seized from her — money that was legally earned and was legally bestowed to her by her late husband, Ronald Malone. The problem, according to the government, was the fact that she deposited it in several lumps instead of all at once.
According to the Associated Press, Mrs. Malone deposited the cash in increments between $5,800 and $9,000. The widow’s private financial affairs evidently set off red flags under the watchful gaze of the federal government.
The IRS sought out and obtained a warrant in 2013 to seize Mrs. Malone’s bank account based on suspicion that the transactions were sized in strategic amounts meant to avoid federal reporting requirements, which take place on transactions valued at $10,000 or more. The crime is referred to as “structuring” one’s deposits.
Police State USA described this offensive law in a previous article:
The federal government began surveilling Americans’ banking activities under President Nixon with the The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, which required that banks file “Currency Transaction Reports” to the IRS (specifically: FinCEN Form 112) on every individual who deposits or withdraws more than $10,000 in cash to or from a personal bank account on a given day. These reports indicate the financial activities that took place and include the individual’s bank account number, name, address, and social security number.
The financial dragnet was pitched to America as a way to catch tax evaders and money launderers. It actually marked the end of financial privacy and soon evolved into a tool used to harass innocent Americans. The IRS enjoyed a battery of new powers, which were increased several times thereafter.
In 2001, the USA PATRIOT Act expanded financial surveillance efforts to the so-called War on Terror. The Patriot Act was said to contain a “package of unconstitutional expansions of the financial police state,” according to one of bill’s few dissenters, Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. Among other things, the law prohibited bankers from informing customers that they had been reported to the IRS. Paul said the bill had “more to do with the ongoing war against financial privacy than with the war against international terrorism,”
Once accused of structuring deposits, Americans are deprived of their bank accounts and forced to prove their innocence using whatever remaining resources they can scrape together. Some manage to eventually get their money back, after months of fighting in court. Due to the high cost of legal services, the victims sometimes decide to accept the loss and not invest thousands more into the ordeal.
“You won’t prosecute a widow,” Janet Malone pleaded, according to an affidavit. The government accepted her challenge.
Prosecutors not only declined to drop the civil forfeiture case against Mrs. Malone, but also slapped the widow with federal misdemeanor charges that she willfully structured her deposits.
The AP reported that Mrs. Malone is expected to plead guilty and let the government keep her money, in a plea exchange for her freedom. The charge carries up to one year in jail and a $250,000 fine.
Victims like Mrs. Malone are not unique. Police State USA wrote about another Iowa woman who recently had her entire bank account seized for the exact same reason. These women, and many other victims of forfeiture, harmed no one and were minding their own business.
One might observe the irony of demanding FinCEN reports, as it seems a bit redundant given the government’s disturbing ability to surveil bank accounts and detect Americans “avoiding” the reporting requirements.