An aspiring musician traveling to Hollywood to attempt to break into the music business had his life savings seized on route by the DEA without being charged with a crime, last week.
Detroit native, Joseph Rivers, 22, had saved $16,000 before, on the train to Los Angeles, the Justice Department stepped in and stole it, the Albuquerque Journal reports.
Officers found the money stashed in a bank envelope before Rivers explained to the officers that the money was legally his, and that he had saved it in order to start his own music video company in California.
Rivers said he was carrying the money in cash because he had previously had trouble withdrawing large sums of money from out-of-state banks.
Even after a telephone call to River’s mother in Detroit to corroborate his story, the agents refused to believe the young man, insisting that the money was drug-related.
Even though the officers found no drugs or guns on Rivers, and failed to charge him with any crime, they took his cash away from him under the federal civil asset forfeiture program.
The Justice Department’s multibillion-dollar civil asset forfeiture fund allows officers to seize a citizen’s belongings, based only on a suspicion that a person is breaking the law. In other words, the program completely reverses the burden of proof. We are now guilty until proven innocent.
“We don’t have to prove that the person is guilty,” an Albuquerque DEA agent said. “It’s that the money is presumed to be guilty.”
DEA agents have seized well over $38 million dollars in cash and goods already this year.
Last year, in total, the Justice Department made a total of $3.9 billion in civil asset seizures, compared to just $679 million in criminal asset seizures.
Rivers has retained an attorney and claims that he was picked on by officers becasue he was the only black person in his section of the train.