Surprise! FBI lied to judge in order to get warrant to seize $86 million in private assets, court papers say
Another day, another example of how corrupt the FBI has become and why Republicans should seriously defund the agency when they retake control.
Court papers unsealed this week indicate that agents lied to a federal magistrate judge in order to secure a warrant so they could seize more than $86 million in private assets from a privately owned safe deposit box store in Beverly Hills, Calif., The Epoch Times reported
U.S. Private Vaults became the subject of an FBI probe after agents and local police observed suspected drug dealers and buyers in the vicinity of the business, which housed more than 1,000 private safe deposit boxes.
On March 22, 2021, FBI agents raided the business after securing a search warrant from U.S. Magistrate Judge Steve Kim, granting them the authority to seize personal property belonging to the firm and individuals, the Los Angeles Times reported
. During the raid, agents seized tens of millions in cash, gold, silver, jewelry and more.
According to the government affidavit that requested several warrants, the FBI included assurances that agents would respect the rights of all safety box customers, which obviously did not happen.
The Epoch Times
Written by Andrew Brown, an assistant U.S. attorney and driving force of the investigation, that section of the affidavit makes it clear that warrants only authorize “seizure of the nests of the boxes themselves, not their contents,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
However, by the time Kim got the warrant request, the FBI had allegedly made preparations to seize the contents inside the deposit boxes.
Matthew Moon, a high-ranking FBI special agent from Los Angeles, asked Jessie Murray, chief of the bureau's asset forfeiture unit in L.A., in the summer of 2020 if Murray's team was "capable of handling a possible large-scale seizure" involving safety deposit boxes at U.S. Private Vault, according to the L.A. Times, to which Murray responded in the affirmative.
"In late 2020 and early 2021, Murray joined a conference call to plan the seizure operation. A memo was issued by FBI agent Lynne Zellhart to fellow agents describing the procedures for carrying out the raid," The Epoch Times
report noted further. "The memo, which was approved by Moon, asked agents to assign ID numbers to 'all cash' found inside the deposit boxes to be cataloged in the Consolidated Asset Tracking System, which the agency uses to organize forfeitures."
Kim wrote specifically in his order authorizing the search warrants that he did not approve a "criminal search or seizure of the contents of the safety deposit boxes," but the FBI agents conducting the raid violated that order and seized them anyway.
"In order to seize assets according to U.S. forfeiture laws, the government must have evidence to prove that these assets were either the result of criminal activity or used to fund such activities," noted The Epoch Times
The judge also instructed agents to identify the owners of the deposit boxes and get ahold of them to let them know they could come and claim their property, according to the L.A. Times. Following the raid, the bureau posted a notice on the storefront window asking customers who had their boxes confiscated to come forward and claim it. But when they did, they were then subjected to FBI investigations and agents probed their state tax records and their bank accounts.
Following the raid and the subsequent investigations, customers who had their property seized got together and filed a class action lawsuit against the FBI, accusing the bureau of blatant violations of customers' constitutional rights.
Regardless of what happens in the lawsuit, the FBI has obviously gone off the rails
and is operating independently of any rules, protocols or constitutional restrictions. If Republicans don't have the courage to disband the agency, it must be substantially defunded.