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A federal agency has abruptly announced it will return to a traveler the $43,167 it confiscated.

“Without offering any explanation or apology for the harm caused by confiscating her money,” the Drug Enforcement Agency informed the Institute for Justice via letter that it would transfer the money back to Stacy Jones.

“Stacy had flown with large amounts of cash in the past and did not expect it would be a problem when she did so earlier this year. After cutting short a planned trip to a North Carolina casino, she packed money that she had intended to gamble in her carry-on bag,” IJ said.

“At the airport, Transportation Security Administration screeners saw the cash on their X-ray and held onto her bag, even though there was no indication that Stacy or her luggage posed a threat to transportation security. Sheriff’s deputies and DEA agents interrogated her about the source of the money. She explained the legal sources of her money, but the DEA agents seized it – without any allegation of criminality. In July, Stacy teamed up with IJ to fight for her money and to end these unconstitutional and unlawful practices by the DEA and the TSA,” the organization said.

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“Getting my money back is a big relief, but DEA never should have taken it in the first place,” she said. “In going through this nightmare, I found out that I’m not the only innocent American who has been treated this way. I hope that my continuing lawsuit will end the government’s practice of treating people flying with cash like criminals.”

The institute filed a federal class action lawsuit to stop the TSA and DEA from unlawfully seizing cash from travelers.

“First, the suit claims that TSA exceeds its statutory authority by seizing travelers and their luggage simply for traveling with a ‘large’ amount of cash, which poses no threat to transportation security—the agency’s sole mission. Second, the suit claims that this TSA practice also violates the Fourth Amendment rights of flyers. Third, the suit claims that the DEA violates the Fourth Amendment rights of flyers by seizing them based solely on the belief or knowledge that they are traveling with a large amount of cash, and by seizing their money for civil forfeiture without probable cause, based solely on its amount,” IJ said.

“We are glad that Stacy will get her money back, but it is shameful that federal agents keep targeting innocent flyers at our nation’s airports,” said IJ Senior Attorney Dan Alban. “We are going to keep fighting to end TSA’s and DEA’s unconstitutional and unlawful practices of seizing people and their cash without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.”

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The institute said the case is emblematic of practices by federal agents, who take assets from innocent people then, through the processes of the government’s asset-forfeiture requirements, force them to seek its return or lose the money.

The DEA letter to IJ presented a list of requirements for Jones to request access to her own property.

A completed form, the letter said, “must be returned to this office at the DEA address or email noted below within thirty (30) days of your receipt of this letter.”

The government agency said the money would be transferred by electronic funds transfer but “may take a minimum of 60 days.”


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