Society

One Small Business Owner's Story Sheds Light On Civil Forfeiture

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades

Carole Hinders was settling into a crossword puzzle with her grandchildren when two Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents knocked on her door in April 2013. The agents informed her that they closed her bank account and seized all of her savings - totaling $33,000. 

Hinders has owned Mrs. Lady’s Mexican Food for the last 38 years. For the majority of that time, she only made cash deposits under $10,000. Under federal law, any withdrawal or deposit over that amount must be reported to the government. Some unscrupulous people strategically withdraw and deposit money under that amount in order to avoid regulation; the tactic is called ‘structuring.’

Hinders wasn’t using the money for illegal purposes. Her business doesn’t accept credit cards and the law fails to provide provisions for small businesses with limited cash flow. Hinders frequently deposited money in order to keep it safe in the bank. 

“In 30 years of banking with the same bank, no one ever mentioned that I was making my deposits wrong,” Hinders said in an Institute of Justice video. “How can I be committing a crime by depositing money I worked for and deposited in my own bank account?”

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“The government is treating Carole like a criminal, just for running an honest cash business,” said Larry Salzman of the Institute for Justice. In civil forfeiture, the IRS is allowed to keep the money and any other seized assets without charging the owner with a crime.“Once your property is taken, it’s up to you to prove your own innocence in expensive litigation against the federal government,” Salzman said.

Although the IRS recently announced they would be reducing their money seizures, Hinders has yet to receive any compensation. “I had to scramble, I had to borrow, I had to beg, I had to put money on my credit cards, things I’ve never done before. It’s been a year from hell,” she said.

The Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm, will be helping Hinders pursue legal action against the government. “I didn’t do anything wrong, they took my money and I don’t think they should have the right to do that,” she said. “I want to stand up for it.”

Sources: The New York Times, The Blaze

Image via YouTube/TheBlaze