When the Government Charges Your Property With a Crime, Not You

Nov 5, 2014

Carole Hinders of Arnold’s Park, IA, wasn’t charged with a crime, but that didn’t stop the I.R.S. from seizing the entire balance of her checking account, more than $30,000.

They didn't charge me with a crime, but they still took my money. I thought "this isn't America anymore." - Carole Hinders

Hinders runs a cash-only business near Lake Okoboji called Mrs. Lady’s Mexican Food. She has been accused of structuring, making deposits of less than $10,000 to avoid federal reporting rules. “When the I.R.S. showed up at my door, I had no idea what structuring was. They didn’t charge me with a crime, but they still took my money. I thought, this isn’t America anymore.”

Hinders says she’s never been audited. She makes deposits of less than $10,000 because she usually doesn’t make more than that in a day at her restaurant. 

According to her attorney, Larry Salzman, who works with the non-profit Institute for Justice, Hinders isn’t the only one who’s been through something like this in the last few years. In her case, the federal government was able to seize her money under civil forfeiture laws, which allow the government to bring a case against a sum of money or a object, like a car, instead of a person.

In civil forfeiture cases, Salzman says it can be incredibly difficult to get your property back and that there are a growing number of these sorts of cases across the country. 

During this River to River interview, host Ben Kieffer talks with Hinders and Salzman. Glen Downey, an attorney in Des Moines who works with the ACLU, and Bart Davis, who had more than $80,000 seized by the Iowa State Patrol earlier this year, also join the conversation.