The government will return nearly $ 30,000 that it seized from Kermit Warren last year.
DEA agents in 2020 stripped Warren of his savings, believing the funds were drug related.
“What happened to me should never happen to anyone in this world,” Warren told NBC News.
In November 2020, Drug Enforcement Administration agents at the Columbus, Ohio airport seized nearly $ 30,000 from Kermit Warren on suspicion the funds were drug-related, thus depriving the shoe shiner. jobless New Orleans with all his savings.
Warren was carrying the large sum of money in hopes of buying a tow truck, but the purchase had failed, and when the grandfather failed to provide proper answers to officials’ questions about the money, authorities completely stripped him of the money, even though he was not charged with a crime.
Now, after nearly a year of financial hardship and legal trouble, Warren is finally getting his money back.
The government agreed this week to return the funds and dismiss the civil forfeiture case against Warren, according to the Institute for Justice, a non-profit law firm that represented Warren. NBC News has secured a settlement agreement confirming the termination.
“It gives me a lot of joy and peace,” Warren said at the point of sale. “What happened to me should never happen to anyone in this world.”
Warren lost his money through a process called Civil Assets Forfeiture, which allows the federal government to take people’s property, even without charging them with a crime, if they believe the funds are tied to criminal activity. According to NBC, authorities deprive thousands of people of their money every year.
While supporters of the rule maintain that it is a necessary device for law enforcement to combat drug traffickers, opponents of the process argue that it frequently harms innocent people and that it is used disproportionately against people of color.
Trying to fight a civil forfeiture is a quick and expensive process, which means many choose to drop it and count their losses.
“Kermit’s case shows how the federal government is abusing civil forfeiture. It seizes money under the most fragile pretext – traveling with money through an airport – and effectively forcing people to prove their innocence in order to recover it. their money, “a press release from the Institute for Justice said.
But stepping away from his $ 28,180 was not an option for Warren, who lost his job as a shoe shine at a New Orleans hotel at the start of the pandemic and was looking for a truck in Ohio in the hope to expand his work to scrap, according to NBC.
Once Warren and his son arrived in Ohio, the purchase of the truck failed and the two returned to New Orleans with the money in tow. According to the outlet, a TSA screening officer first saw the money but let Warren continue through security. However, DEA agents quickly approached Warren and began questioning him about the funds.
Warren, who allegedly panicked and falsely told authorities he was a retired police officer, could not adequately explain the source of the money to authorities, and drug sniffer dogs were quickly brought in. Court documents reviewed by NBC indicated that the presence of drugs had been detected. on some of the silver, although research suggests that the majority of the currency in circulation probably contains traces of drugs.
Law enforcement took Warren’s money and sent him and his son on his way. Soon after, Warren challenged the government seizure and found legal backing from the Institute for Justice. When his lawyers provided prosecutors with text messages and financial documents exonerating Warren, the government dismissed the case and agreed to return the funds to Warren.
Prosecutors said they would do their best to get Warren’s funds returned to him before Thanksgiving, according to NBC.
He told the point of sale that he would never travel with such large quantities again.
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