Friday, January 9, 2009

You are a Terrorist

According to the U.S. Government

Prepare to get angry.  Really angry.

This information comes from the CPA Journal, a professional publication for Certified Public Accountants, not a cult publication or a checkout counter rag.

An 85-year-old man in Philadelphia owns and operates a real estate agency.  He has done business with the same bank that holds the mortgage on his house for 55 years.  They know him, he knows them.  His kids call him up and invite him to join in a real estate project to build a retirement home.  He agrees to kick in $100,000. His money is in cash in his safe deposit box.  

Bear in mind just how safe your investments are today, and having lived through another depression, the idea of keeping some money in a safe deposit box seemed better than hiding it under a mattress.

He takes his cash to the teller window for deposit to his money market account.  The teller calls over the bank manager who advises him to break the deposit up into pieces of $10,000 to avoid filing alert forms for the government.  So, every few days he deposits another $10,000 until it’s all in.  No problem so far.

Three months later the HIDTA task force (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) in Pennsylvania executes a federal seizure warrant on his funds and takes the $100,000.  He is accused of “structuring a financial transaction” under 31 USC. which includes the Banking Secrecy Act and Title III of the Patriot Act.  These acts were supposed to trap terrorists and major drug cartels, not 85-year-old grandfathers.  The pattern of deposits was detected by a computer program that scanned the bank’s transactions.  

Ok, you say, obviously the task force made an error and it will be corrected, at some inconvenience to Grandpa,  Read on.

Grandpa hired an attorney, a specialist in these matters, and a CPA.  They interviewed the bank employees, constructed a schedule of cash available to prove the man had $100,000 legally, a schedule of bank deposits and withdrawals going back several years, a schedule of visits to the safe deposit box, and a proof that he owed no back taxes.

Grandpa, his CPA and his lawyer then held a meeting with the government officials.  They were an Assistant U.S. Attorney, an HIDTA agent, an IRS agent and a state trooper.  Grandpa presented his case, an obviously innocent man who committed no recognizable crime.  

The Assistant U.S, Attorney offered to settle the case by returning $20,000 of Grandpa’s $100,000.  What happens to the rest of the money?  It gets “confiscated”.  The Man said Grandpa was guilty of structuring a transaction to avoid reporting requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act.

Of course, Grandpa never had any such intent.  He probably never heard of this law, and you would be a rare reader if you knew of it.  He was simply following the advice of his bankers.    The Secret Service agent promptly initiated an investigation into the bank employees.  I don’t know what befell them.

Grandpa fought, but all he wound up with after the good fight was $60,000 of his retirement money.  The inappropriate government action cost him $40,000, plus lost interest, emotional distress, and God know how many sleepless nights.  

You will never know if you are being investigated under the Bank Secrecy Act or the Patriot Act.  A special judge issues a warrant to seize your assets and you have to fight to get anything back.  They have the money you would use to defend yourself.  It doesn’t much matter whether you never had anything worse on your record than a parking ticket.   There is no due process such as we know it.  All this goes under the guise of protecting us from drug lords and terrorists.  They are destroying our system of justice for our own good.  We are children who can’t be trusted with our own money.

The Bank Secrecy Act and financial provisions of the doublespeak Patriot Act were intended by Congress to combat money laundering by drug cartels and terrorist organizations.  Since 1970, it has greatly expanded to become a far-reaching power the entraps many ordinary American citizens every day.  My concern is that the government is manipulating our fears in order to steadily encroach on our civil liberties, and that one day we will wake up and discover we are no longer the “land of the free”.

To complete the record, our government seized roughly $250 million belonging to North Korea’s Kim Il Sung, a very nasty tyrant who holds his impoverished nation under his thumb in mortal fear.  But Kim got his bucks back.  Grandpa did not.  So much for “protection”.

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