Civil Asset Forfeiture Case Has a Happy Ending
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Legal battles against the government don’t often have a happy ending — but we’re so glad that in Carole Hinders’ case, it did!

In 2013, IRS agents showed up at Carole’s door and told her they had seized all the money in the bank account for her business, Mrs. Lady’s Mexican Food. But they didn’t charge her with a crime. The only reason her money was seized was the fact that Carole made frequent cash deposits under $10,000. Even that is not illegal — it just looks suspiciously like a “structuring” method used by real criminals to hide illegally gotten gains.

The problem is, the IRS didn’t stop to investigate why Carole made deposits the way she did. She became “guilty until proven innocent.”

Her lawyer at the Institute for Justice explains: “If the government had asked Carole why she makes frequently makes cash deposits, they would have learned that her business doesn’t accept credit cards, and she doesn’t want to keep a lot of cash on the premises. Instead, the government is treating Carole like a criminal just for running an honest cash business.” 

Carole couldn’t believe what had happened to her. How could the government have the right to take her money for no reason? She decided to fight it.

In the meantime, she had to scramble, borrow, beg, and put business expenses on her credit card. Frankly, she says, “It’s been a year from hell.”

But her persistence has finally paid off. She received all $33,000 back from the IRS.

Even more, her story sparked a national conversation about the legitimacy of civil asset forfeiture. In February, after months of outrage, the IRS policies were changed. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen himself apologized “to anyone who is not treated fairly under the code,” though not without implying that those who don’t contest their seizure prove themselves to be criminals.

Carole knows personally why few cases are challenged — her legal fees now amount to twice as much money as the IRS stole from her. Now she’s trying to get the government to pay back her legal fees. But regardless, she wouldn’t take back her fight. “I would rather throw the money in the garbage than settle with the IRS,” she said.

Her attitude is not surprising. Even the government’s dismissal of the case against Carole’s money was “mean-spirited” (and yes, in civil asset forfeiture lawsuits are filed against items, not people). 

The government asked the court to dismiss the case “without prejudice” — meaning it can file another action in the future to get Hinders’ money if the court grants its motion. The government also reiterated that it was justified in filing the case in the first place.

Hinders had shown a “clear pattern of manipulating bank deposits below $10,000 in order to avoid the reporting requirements,” the government said in its motion to dismiss. However, the government added that “allocating its limited resources elsewhere would better serve justice in this case.”

This agency can’t even admit when they are plainly wrong. They mistreated and insulted an honest small business owner, while wasting valuable time and taxpayer dollars trying to keep her money.

The IRS loves to harass American citizens. It doesn’t matter whether its actions fall technically inside the legal boundaries, as in this case, or plainly outside the law, like when it purposely targets its political enemies. Either way, you can count on the IRS for greed, wasteful inefficiency, and bullying every time.

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