SICKENING ABUSE: Footage Shows DEA Agent Seizing $87k in Marine Veteran’s Life Savings
Sickening new footage reveals a federal Drug Enforcement Agency officer robbing a Marine Corps combat veteran of $87,000 in his life savings, utilizing a controversial process known as civil asset forfeiture for what amounts to state-sponsored highway robbery.
The footage, published by the Institute for Justice, shows a Nevada Highway Patrol officer pulling over 39-year old Stephen Lara in February and barraging him with a host of questions about his travels. Lara, who was driving to California to visit his family, was traveling with his $87,000 in life savings, explaining that he doesn’t trust the banking system and prefers to keep his money. The Afghanistan veteran allowed law enforcement to search his vehicle, stating that he has nothing to hide and has no involvement in illegal activity.
The Nevada Highway Patrol officer fetched a Drug Enforcement Agency officer, who sicked a drug search drug on Lara’s vehicle. The federal officer claimed the dog detected the scent of drugs on Lara’s cash, which he presented receipts proving was withdrawn from a bank before he started his drive from Texas to California.
Studies have indicated as many as 67% of US currency contains trace amounts of drugs, with unreliable dog searches failing to substantiate any evidence of drug trafficking or criminal activity.
Legal deadlines require both the DEA and Nevada Highway Patrol to return money seized in civil asset forfeitures within 90 days if they can’t demonstrate probable cause to seize the money. No criminal charges have been filed against Lara, with authorities failing to demonstrate any evidence that the Marine is involved in criminal activity.
The Institute of Justice is representing Lara in a lawsuit to regarding the illegal seizure, with federal and state agencies stalling and delaying in an attempt to keep the money for themselves. The money was returned after the story of the robbery was documented by the Institute for Justice, but a lawsuit against both the DEA and Nevada Highway Patrol continues for the violation of Lara’s rights.
Civil liberties advocates have pointed to the case as an example of the need to abolish civil asset forfeiture.
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