No verdict Thursday in Florida loud music murder trial


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The FBI is offering rewards for information leading to the apprehension of the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives. Select the images of suspects to display more information.

Just Reported

Smyrna, Clayton police seek funds for ‘Shop with a Cop’

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The News Journal
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Police investigating fatal shooting in Lake Highlands

One person was fatally shot late Saturday night in Lake Highlands.

Police said a suspect is in custody in the shooting that occurred in the 11300 block of Amanda Lane, near Interstate 635 and Walnut Hill Lane, about 11 p.m.

The @DallasPD is investigating a Shooting in the 11300 block of Amanda Ln. 1 Victim deceased, 1 Suspect in Custody.

— Colton Johnson (@JohnsonDPD) October 26, 2014


Police probe east Erie car chase, gunfire

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Forfeiture laws allow agents to take money without any sign of crime


ARNOLDS PARK, Iowa — For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at
her modest, cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank a
block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and told her they had seized
her funds, almost $33,000.

The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Hinders of money-laundering or cheating on
her taxes. In fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely
because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid
triggering a required government report.

“How can this happen?” Hinders said recently. “Who takes your money before they prove that you’v
e done anything wrong with it?”

The federal government does.

Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their
cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so
much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money
without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many
simply give up and settle the case for a portion of their money.

“They’re going after people who are really not criminals,” said David Smith, a former federal
prosecutor who is now a forfeiture expert and lawyer in Virginia. “They’re middle-class citizens
who have never had any trouble with the law.”

On Thursday, in response to questions from
The New York Times, the IRS announced that it would curtail the practice, focusing instead
on cases where the money is believed to have been acquired illegally or seizure is deemed justified
by “exceptional circumstances.”

Richard Weber, chief of Criminal Investigation at the IRS, said in a written statement, “This
policy update will ensure that C.I. continues to focus our limited investigative resources on
identifying and investigating violations within our jurisdiction that closely align with C.I.’s
mission and key priorities.” He added that making deposits under $10,000 to evade reporting
requirements, called structuring, is still a crime whether the money is from legal or illegal
sources. The new policy will not affect seizures that already have occurred.

The IRS is one of several federal agencies that pursue such cases and then refer them to the
Justice Department. The Justice Department does not track the total number of cases pursued, the
amount of money seized or how many of the cases were related to other crimes, said Peter Carr, a

But the Institute for Justice, a public-interest law firm in Washington that seeks to reform
civil-forfeiture practices, analyzed data from the IRS, which made 639 seizures in 2012, up from
114 in 2005. Only 1 in 5 was prosecuted as a criminal case.

The practice has swept up dairy farmers in Maryland, an Army sergeant in Virginia saving for his
children’s college education and Hinders, 67, who has borrowed money, strained her credit cards and
taken out a second mortgage to keep her restaurant going.

Her money was seized under a controversial area of law known as civil-asset forfeiture, which
allows law-enforcement agents to take property they suspect of being tied to crime even if no
criminal charges are filed. The agencies get to keep a share of whatever is forfeited.

Owners who are caught up in structuring cases often cannot afford to fight. The median amount
seized by the IRS was $34,000, according to the Institute for Justice analysis, while legal costs
can easily mount to $20,000 or more.

Under the Bank Secrecy Act, banks and other financial institutions must report cash deposits
greater than $10,000. Because many criminals are aware of that requirement, banks also are supposed
to report any suspicious transactions, including deposit patterns below $10,000. Last year, banks
filed more than 700,000 suspicious-activity reports, which are reviewed by more than 100
multiagency task forces.

There are often legitimate business reasons for keeping deposits below $10,000, said Larry
Salzman, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice who is representing Hinders pro bono. For example,
he said, some grocery-store owners in Fraser, Mich., had an insurance policy that covered only up
to $10,000 in cash. When they neared the limit, they would make a deposit.

State lawmaker targets civil forfeiture


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