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Canada Crime The Almighty Buck United States Your Rights Online

CBC Warns Canadians of "US Law Enforcement Money Extortion Program" 462

jfbilodeau writes The CBC is warning Canadians about a U.S. program where America law enforcement officers — from federal agents to state troopers right down to sheriffs in one-street backwaters — are operating a vast, co-ordinated scheme to grab as much of the public's cash as they can through seizure laws. "So, for any law-abiding Canadian thinking about an American road trip, here’s some non-official advice: Avoid long chats if you’re pulled over. Answer questions politely and concisely, then persistently ask if you are free to go. Don’t leave litter on the vehicle floor, especially energy drink cans. Don’t use air or breath fresheners; they could be interpreted as an attempt to mask the smell of drugs. Don’t be too talkative. Don’t be too quiet. Try not to wear expensive designer clothes. Don’t have tinted windows. And for heaven’s sake, don’t consent to a search if you are carrying a big roll of legitimate cash.
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CBC Warns Canadians of "US Law Enforcement Money Extortion Program"

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  • Corrected link (Score:5, Informative)

    by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @03:17PM (#47883727) Homepage
    • The hosers are right (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 11, 2014 @03:24PM (#47883805)

      American police run an extra-legal extortion racket in the name of RICO laws. They can impound property giving the citizen no legal recourse. What do they do with the money? Buy military style riot gear and surplus MRAPS. Boy, I feel safer.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        This isn't news to Canucks, we've been dealing with this in our own country from Quebec for years. It's gotten better since the RCMP started an investigation on it though, but I got one a few years back. The last time I was in Quebec was in 1988 when I went there I was in middle school, and it was part of the "tour the capital" bit. Quebec is like NJ, full of slime, corruption, and fully broken.

      • by mrbcs ( 737902 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @07:15PM (#47885779)
        I live 40 miles from the American border. I have not crossed it in ten years thanks to Patriot and related activites.

        I'll pay the pittance for shipping online purchases and the extortion to Canada for "import fees" (wtf happend to free trade?), I'm not setting foot in American if I can help it.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 11, 2014 @03:48PM (#47884135)

      Welcome to America, Canada's version of Mexico.

    • by theshowmecanuck ( 703852 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @03:59PM (#47884247) Journal
      The real source is this Washington Post article(s). [washingtonpost.com]
  • Broken link (Score:2, Informative)

    by Guspaz ( 556486 )

    The link in the article is cut off and gives a 404. Here is the correct link:

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/a... [www.cbc.ca]

  • by oic0 ( 1864384 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @03:18PM (#47883745)
    Even the police are capitalist. They fiercely serve and protect their budgets.
  • Seems reasonable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @03:19PM (#47883759)

    As a U.S. citizen, I'm baffled as to why courts have accepted the validity of civil forfeiture laws. It strikes me as a blatant violation of our Constitution.

    When nationalistic Americans brag about our Bill or Rights, I wonder which version they're excited about: the version one gets from a plain reading of its text, or the twisted monstrosity that the three branches of government have foisted upon us.

    • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @03:33PM (#47883947) Journal

      It's great that our allies are starting to shame us for this! This is such an embarrassing failure of our ideals, and there's really no excuse.

      The war on drugs got police in the habit of supplementing their budgets (and wallets) with seized cash. Policy allowing this trained a generation of police that seizing cash was not only OK, but important for the budget. There's little we can do as individuals, but as a democracy we need to push back against this, strongly.

      There's no corporate corruption at work here that we need to fight, just the need for governments at all levels to start directly outlawing civil forfeiture without a specific criminal case to tie it to, and even then to keep cash and legal valuables in escrow, not in the cops hands, and insure their prompt return unless forfeiture is a specific legal penalty for a crime that someone is found guilty of.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ultranova ( 717540 )

        This is such an embarrassing failure of our ideals, and there's really no excuse.

        Is it? Because it seems to me that it's perfectly in line with the actual ideals US has embraced for its entire existence: to the victor go the spoils.

        "Land of the Free" has never existed, except in the same realms of propaganda "Worker's Paradise" did. All that's happening now is that oppression is being doled out somewhat more equally than in the past. But this has always been the real face of America to anyone who's not pow

        • Grow up. Any country looks bad when compared to a perfect castle in the sky. For almost 2 centuries the United States stood tall among the nations of the world.
          • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @06:36PM (#47885535)

            Grow up. Any country looks bad when compared to a perfect castle in the sky. For almost 2 centuries the United States stood tall among the nations of the world.

            I'm not sure the native Americans would agree.

            • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @07:53PM (#47885989) Journal

              I was born in America, and thus I am as much a "native American" as one of my great-Grandfathers, a Cherokee, or anyone else born here. There were other people here before the Cherokee came: they displaced the previous tribes to inhabit their lands. No doubt there were wave after wave of conquerors over the ~13,000 years since the Clovis culture. [wikipedia.org] Heck, reading through Wikipedia, they maybe weren't the first humans here either.

              No nation lasts forever, due to conquest or occasionally starvation, but the US has a darn good track record of living up to the ideals expressed by the Founders, by the standard not of angels but of men governing men in the real world. This sort of police corruption is distinctly un-American, and we shouldn't put up with this shit.

              • by dk20 ( 914954 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @08:02PM (#47886049)

                "US has a darn good track record of living up to the ideals expressed by the Founders"

                So the founders were in favor of things like the "constitution free zone" which covers most Americans (by population, not land mass)
                https://www.aclu.org/know-your... [aclu.org]

                - Spying on its own citizens (see Snowden).
                - large numbers of citizens in jails and prisons for longer terms for lesser crimes?
                - Imperialism via forward operating bases spanning the globe?
                - Presidents starting "simi-wars"? Actually more like "armed conflicts", not actual "wars" as only congress can declare war. So war-like but not really...

              • by dave420 ( 699308 )

                Overthrowing democracies around the world? Systematic genocide? Internment camps for its own citizens? Funding dictators? Nuking civilians? Rampant racism?

                Your memory seems to be rather spotty, or you think those things are awesome. It's got to be one of the two.

          • by HiThere ( 15173 )

            I think you need to look a bit closer at the history of the US. The persecution of minorities and less powerful is something that has a very long history in the US. They don't tend to cover it in grade school history, but if you read the actual histories, you'll see it.

            OTOH, those who romanticize the Indians are equally wrong. They were more done to than doing, but they also weren't innocents. They were, however, less powerful, so they couldn't enforce treaties. You could also investigate how the Chine

        • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @06:37PM (#47885539) Journal

          ... in line with the actual ideals US has embraced for its entire existence: to the victor go the spoils.

          That's it! I'm naming my kid Victor.

    • by mbone ( 558574 )

      Well, starting with Nixon, one political party has made political hay with "litmus tests" for the appointment of politically correct judges, with opposition and voting out (where possible) of any judges who are "soft on crime." Is it any surprise that our judiciary is now full of political hacks?

      • This is not just one party. Both major parties for a long time have figured out that you never lose a vote by being harsh on crime but will lose elections if there's even an accusation of being soft on crime. The difference starting with Nixon is that this was being applied at a very high level rather than being about local or state elections.

      • by careysub ( 976506 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @05:51PM (#47885183)

        The Drug War kleptocracy, like the National Security State, and the Plutocracy we live in has been nurtured by both Republicans and Democrats for decades, nay, generations now. Neither party has opposed these trends. It is wrong to say that they are both alike, but in these essential areas of freedom and democracy, they have both been happy to be on the take, and to wield ill-gotten power.

    • War on cash? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jeti ( 105266 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @03:52PM (#47884163) Homepage

      For the police departments, this kind of robbery is just a way to grab some cash. But I wonder if this is accepted on a political level to get rid of non-traceable monetary transactions altogether.

    • When nationalistic Americans brag about our Bill or Rights, I wonder which version they're excited about: the version one gets from a plain reading of its text, or the twisted monstrosity that the three branches of government have foisted upon us.

      I think it's the one that exists only in their heads.

    • Re:Seems reasonable (Score:5, Interesting)

      by taustin ( 171655 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @04:53PM (#47884791) Homepage Journal

      The Supreme Court has ruled that civil forfeiture laws are, in fact, subject to the restrictions on excessive fines. Very specifically, and as I recall, on a case that involved seizure of money at the border.

      Nobody knows about this, and a foreign tourist won't have any inclination to come back to the US - in a year or two, when it comes to trial - and spend more on legal fees than what was stolen.

      The only way to stop this is to criminally prosecute corrupt cops. Which happens from time to time, but not nearly enough.

    • Re:Seems reasonable (Score:5, Informative)

      by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @05:40PM (#47885111)

      I think at the very least, if no lawsuit judgement is reached then the money MUST be returned (technically this is a civil lawsuit that is being used as a justification, not a criminal proceeding). The idea that it was "probably" obtained through drug money is ridiculous, it needs to be proved. And the forfeiture must happen AFTER the lawsuit, not before.

      California passed laws severely restricting this under state law, and limited amount of proceeds police are allowed to keep from forfeiture. But then the police found a loophole, they pass it on to the feds since Federal law is much harsher in this regard and the local law enforcement is allowed to keep up to 80% of the proceeds. It's a built in incentive to cheat. So even if the states have implemented reforms (ie, California does require a conviction before real estate or vehicles can be forfeited) the Federal law is still broken and is often used to get around this, especially in regards to drug laws. The Federal laws need fixing first, it's no good trying to fix stuff piece meal at the state level (especially as some states are een more onerous then the feds).

    • Re:Seems reasonable (Score:5, Interesting)

      by towermac ( 752159 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @05:48PM (#47885167)

      It may help to remember how this current trend got it's legs.

      Reagan is newly in office, and the country's mood is: we're tired of being ripped off and taken advantage of.

      Pablo Escobar is bringing in tons of cocaine in broad daylight, and seemingly, no one can stop him. The Coast Guard has destroyer-sized ships and helicopters. The helicopters can catch Mr. Columbia's cigar boat, but are unarmed, and not allowed to shoot anyway. They can, and do, often wave at each other.

      The Sheriff and even State police don't have boats to catch them, don't have helicopters available to just patrol, and if they do catch them; they have revolvers and shotguns against Uzis and AKs. In the face of all that, they catch a few anyway. But it turns out that it doesn't hurt the cartels at all to imprison their mules. Hell, it's their retirement plan, and keeps wages & seniority under control. Heh.

      So the state auctions off the confiscated speedboat, and guess who's there to bid on it? Guess who cannot bid on it under any circumstances? The Sheriff himself. Not that I'd want him to, using my tax money that I'd rather go to schools or whatever. Pablo buys it back for a quarter of the new price. But sometimes he has to buy a new one. How much do you think that hurt his business? He can outspend the sheriff ten to one, and worse than that, it would be a stupid strategy to try and outspend the drug lord on guns and boats. The exact same strategy we were about to begin using on the Soviets, and it works.

      In 1976, cocaine was a rich person's drug, or at least a big-city drug. in 1981, everybody and their 15 year old cousin in Mississippi could get it. Cocaine is suddenly everywhere, and it's profitable as shit; $100 1980 dollars a gram. (Of course that's not even pure cocaine; that's street cut).

      What was pitched to us, and what we agreed to, was that yes; the Dade Sheriff could keep the cigar boat if he painted law enforcement colors on it, and used it to interdict the guys that used to own it. And while he's not allowed to sell the captured cocaine himself, he was allowed to keep the cocaine money, since it was bound for Columbia anyway, forever to disappear from our economy.

      At that time, that was what was meant by the phrase, the "War on Drugs". They begged for the authority to take possession and shoot back with a quickness, just like real soldiers do in a real war. And hell, these were foreigners bringing AKs in, and didn't care who they shot. Of course, shoot them and take their stuff. What the hell are you thinking; waving? Sounds like Carter. We're done with that.

      Things have come a long way since we had that mindset. I'll leave you with this thought: All government always grows, always; and sooner or later, it morphs into something you didn't expect.

  • Simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @03:20PM (#47883767) Homepage
    Most of the problems are caused by small local communities using unfair seizure laws to fund their own community/special benefits.

    Similarly, 99% of the problem could be stopped if they cancelled the Equitable Sharing program and instead insisted that all such seizures to go to the federal government, not to any local fund.

    • Similarly, 99% of the problem could be stopped if they cancelled the Equitable Sharing program and instead insisted that all such seizures to go to the federal government, not to any local fund.

      Hmmm...possibly. How much of local cops' seizures actually belong to the feds and are "shared" back by this program, and how much are seizures under local authority--or could be made so if the local cops think they won't get federal seizures back? The latter can't be constitutionally claimed by the feds, although i

    • Re:Simple solution (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rhsanborn ( 773855 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @03:32PM (#47883927)
      Or you forced departments to pay back double or triple plus court costs for improper seizures.They'd suddenly be much more careful.
      • You don't need to be greedy. Simply requiring the law enforcement to pay interest and to pay attorney fees should be sufficient.
        • Re:Simple solution (Score:4, Insightful)

          by flink ( 18449 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @04:03PM (#47884305)

          You don't need to be greedy. Simply requiring the law enforcement to pay interest and to pay attorney fees should be sufficient.

          Plus lost wages to go to court, plus inconvenience charge, plus opportunity costs.

        • Re:Simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Em Adespoton ( 792954 ) <slashdotonly.1.adespoton@spamgourmet.com> on Thursday September 11, 2014 @05:09PM (#47884905) Homepage Journal

          You don't need to be greedy. Simply requiring the law enforcement to pay interest and to pay attorney fees should be sufficient.

          That might help US Citizens, but Canadians just driving through aren't going to want to halt their life, go back to the country that ripped them off, find a reputable attorney that knows these laws, and then come back AGAIN for the court date, unless it's a pretty large amount of goods stolen by the authorities. After all, not only do they run the risk of getting skimmed again, they also run the risk of getting scammed by their lawyer, AND they have to pay room/board/transportation PLUS take the extra time off work required for the visits. Most people I know just took it as a lesson not to visit that part of the US again and cut their losses.

    • Re:Simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mbone ( 558574 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @03:32PM (#47883931)

      No.

      If police want to seize anything, they should charge the citizen with the appropriate crime, and take him or her to court. Anything else is unconstitutional BS.

      Yes, not having the proceeds go to charity just turns it into an open invitation for corruption (and any PD that depends on these funds for operating expenses is certainly corrupt), but the problem is deeper than that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sjames ( 1099 )

        In many places, the court itself shares a percentage of the take. I'm quite sure I wouldn't like to be on trial in that court when the judge can't help knowing 10% of it will help pay his salary.

        Anything short of destruction of the seized property leads to perverse incentives.

      • Re:Simple solution (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Mr. Shotgun ( 832121 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @06:51PM (#47885653)

        If police want to seize anything, they should charge the citizen with the appropriate crime, and take him or her to court. Anything else is unconstitutional BS.

        Exactly! Charge and convict the owner for the crime they are alleging took place. How this perversion of the 4th amendment is allowed to stand is anyone's guess. But the fix is obvious, if there isn't enough evidence to convict a person of a crime then there isn't a crime. There is no end run saying the money did it, that like a 4 year old blaming a stuffed animal for throwing food. Civil forfeiture doesn't make any sense and should be repealed, period.

    • Yeah, small local communities.. like Philadelphia [forbes.com].

      It's a brave new world in the USSA. NSA tracking (probably a fraction of what we know about), police kicking you out of your home without charges, and so on. The worst part is we have a whole new generation of cops and lawyers growing up where all this is the norm. It makes the next encroachment seem that much less outlandish.

      Either get off the grid or get wealthy / connected. Or be content being cattle.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't know why any one in Canada would want to visit that cesspool we have what they have only without the suck and with a lot more natural spaces to enjoy.

  • by caseih ( 160668 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @03:28PM (#47883879)

    CBC's article is just a Canadian take on things. The original article (just as scary) is here:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/... [washingtonpost.com]

    • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @04:42PM (#47884687)

      CBC's article is just a Canadian take on things. The original article (just as scary) is here:

      Well, yes. But it's hardly "original" -- this is a problem that has been profiled extensively for years, yet few people seem to realize how far it extends. A couple of times over the past year, when posters on Slashdot mentioned random forfeitures that happened to them, they were met with comments saying, "You must have done something suspicious" or "What's the rest of the story," and I tried to provide links to point out the systemic problem, but have been met with ignorance and resistance.

      For a sample of past coverage, here's an extensive piece from The New Yorker [newyorker.com] a year ago, a piece from Reason [reason.com] in 2012, a piece from Forbes [forbes.com] in 2011, pieces in Slate [slate.com] and The Economist [economist.com] from 2010, a detailed piece on NPR [npr.org] from 2008, etc., etc., etc. Here's an extensive account of problems with the system from PBS [pbs.org] almost 15 years ago (around the time that legal reform forced money to go to local municipalities in many cases rather than the federal government). The ACLU has been fighting this for decades [aclu.org].

      I know some people here may be well aware of this problem, and others may find this shocking and new. Regardless, it's very sad that it may take other countries' shaming us into taking action to fix an unjust assault on our citizens that has been going on for many years.

  • Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <skennedy.tpno-co@org> on Thursday September 11, 2014 @03:29PM (#47883891) Homepage

    And for heaven’s sake, don’t consent to a search if you are carrying a big roll of legitimate cash.

    You never consent to a search. Make them get a warrant or conduct an illegal search. You may have just bought the car. It may have absolutely NOTHING personal in it. You still don't consent to a search.

    Period.

    • by oic0 ( 1864384 )
      Yep. There is no good outcome when you let them search your car. Best case scenario they waste your time and violate your space. Worst case scenario they find some way to screw you while they are in there.
    • by jeti ( 105266 )

      The price may be that they get a dog to scratch your car.

    • Re:Correction (Score:5, Interesting)

      by wjcofkc ( 964165 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @05:20PM (#47884987)
      I have the pleasure of working with off duty police officers. We used to always get along well. Then one of them started telling stories about pulling people over. They were not flattering. I explained to them my policy of informing police officers, "I know you're just out here doing your job officer, but I don't consent to searches." I further explained that after stepping out of the vehicle (because that line always results in being asked to), that I repeatedly interject, "Am I being detained or am I free to go." Until finally they have to let me go. Despite explaining that I am as polite as can be about it, they chastised me for my approach. They were as upset as the cop that finally has to let me go. I still have to work with them, but they don't hide the fact that they now dislike me quite a bit. It probably didn't help that I combined it with a story about two cops that severely trampled on my civil rights a couple years ago and there was nothing I could do about it.
  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @03:41PM (#47884045) Homepage

    First the militarization of small town police departments, SWAT teams for serving routine warrants, rising incidents of shocking brutality and now law enforcement has devolved to the point of being little better than a band of petty thieves. This is getting pathetic and scary. Foreign countries are issuing warnings about the conduct of U.S. law enforcement personnel. Am I the only person who has a problem with that?

  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @03:46PM (#47884103) Journal

    > And for heaven’s sake, don’t consent to a search if you are carrying a big roll of legitimate cash.

    Well, of course, but I'd say "don't consent to a search, ever. At all."

  • by atari2600a ( 1892574 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @03:48PM (#47884133)
    My little brother had a gig at an auto rental place built into the side of a hotel. Once, they had to pick up a punk concert booker from the airport & they got pulled over by the 5-0 PO. There goes the $9K USD roll he needed to book bands in the city. They may have said something about picking it up from the evdience locker in a few months or something?
  • by FuzzNugget ( 2840687 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @04:07PM (#47884355)

    They've been running this shake-down on Americans traveling out-of-state, too: http://www.newyorker.com/magaz... [newyorker.com]

    Basically, if you're not a local, they'll pull you over for some piss-ant, often fabricated infraction, claim that they "smell weed" (especially if your plates are CO or WA) threate-^h...extort you with some scary-sounding charges (which you'll be greatly disinclined to accept when you're a considerable distance from home, not wanting a huge ticket, points on your license and a trial that you'll lose in a kangaroo traffic court) and then miraculously offer to "make it go away" if you fork over whatever cash and valuables you've got in your car, which they get to use to pad their budget or their own fucking wallets (because it's untraceable and you're in the middle of dogfuck nowhere, who's gonna know, right?)

    This is *literally* sanctioned and institutionalized highway robbery and they've gotten away with THOUSANDS of them.

  • Consent to search (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xian97 ( 714198 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @04:22PM (#47884515)
    And for heaven’s sake, don’t consent to a search if you are carrying a big roll of legitimate cash.

    I have been pulled over twice for minor offenses such as a burned out taillight bulb and then had my vehicle searched for no cause. The police said they smelled marijuana and didn't need my consent. Basically, all they have to do is lie and the Bill of Rights is just a piece of paper as far as they are concerned. They found nothing either time.
  • by Tanman ( 90298 ) on Thursday September 11, 2014 @05:03PM (#47884853)

    I hate stuff like this. I hate it because it is crooked and evil. I hate it because there is very little recourse for the average citizen to make against an attack like this.

    Contact your congress reps, local and federal. Try to get them to change the law. What is happening in these stories should be illegal.

I have never seen anything fill up a vacuum so fast and still suck. -- Rob Pike, on X.

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