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Elderly Man’s Life Savings Seized by DEA and TSA at Airport Without Cause, Family Sues

A family is filing a class-action lawsuit against the DEA and TSA for seizing their father’s retirement savings without evidence of a crime.

Terrence Rolin, a 79-year-old retired railroad engineer, kept his $82,373 retirement savings in cash hidden in a Tupperware container until he decided to open a joint-savings account with his daughter, Rebecca Brown. When Ms. Brown attempted to board an airplane with the money, the TSA was able to see the cash in a carry-on. She was questioned by the DEA who then seized the money, stating that the money is now permanently forfeited.

The family is now suing the DEA and TSA for seizing the money simply because the agency found the large amount of cash suspicious. Brown and Rolin have hired the Institute of Justice, a libertarian-leaning public interest law firm, who has previously challenged the DEA and TSA’s practice of seizing cash from airline passengers without evidence of a crime. The firm stated the DEA and TSA violated Ms. Brown’s Fourth Amendment rights.

“Flying with any amount of cash is completely legal, but once again we see government agents treating American citizens like criminals,” Institute for Justice senior attorney Dan Alban said in a press release. “You don’t forfeit your constitutional rights when you try to board an airplane. It is time for TSA and federal law enforcement to stop seizing cash from travelers simply because the government considers certain amounts of cash ‘suspicious.’”

The loss of Rolin’s savings have left the elderly man without money to fix his truck, his only source of transportation, or get needed dental work.

“My father and his parents worked hard for this money, and the government shouldn’t be able to reach into his pocket and take it,” Brown said a press release. “We did nothing wrong and haven’t been charged with any crime, yet the DEA is trying to take my father’s life savings. His savings should be returned right away, and the government should stop taking money from Americans who are doing something completely legal.”

As published by Reason, the DEA has a long history of seizing cash in amounts larger than $5,000, if they believe it is connected to criminal activity. A 2017 report by the Justice Department Inspector General published that the DEA seized more than $4 billion in cash from people suspected of drug activity over the decade, but $3.2 billion of those cash seizures could never be connected to criminal charges.

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