YUBA CITY (CBS13) – A Yuba City man says law enforcement confiscated his money but he didn’t commit a crime. Now he’s fighting to get back tens of thousands of dollars.

Yuba City resident Josh Gingerich buys and flips trucks.  A recent buying trip to do that cost him a bag of cash which was seized by a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) drug interdiction task force at O’Hare Airport.

“A little over 29 grand,” the amount taken said Gingerich who was not arrested and did not break any laws.  “No marijuana, no drugs.”

He believes an airport TSA agent saw the money in his backpack and tipped off the DEA.

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“They take you down to a dingy basement room,” said Gingerich.  “No cameras…no nothing.”

Gingerich said he was set up by the officers who he says claimed to smell marijuana on a plastic bag filled with dirty laundry in his backpack.  He said officers dumped the clothes, filled the bag with cash, then brought it to the drug dog.

“They can just do what they want,” said Gingerich.

Within the United States, it is legal to carry cash, says Benjamin Ruddell of the ACLU.

“There’s no prohibition on carrying cash, or carrying a large amount of cash,” said Ruddell who points out what they believe is flawed with the DEA Civil Asset Forfeiture Program.

“If the purpose of this is to disrupt illegal drug activity…we’d see some of these people be arrested,” said Ruddell.

Last March, the U.S. Justice Department Inspector General released a report saying from 2007–2016, the DEA seized $3.2 billion with zero convictions tied to this money.

“It should be against the law,” said Gingerich.

Gingerich also questions whose being given this seizure power.  In his case, there was a Chicago police officer working on the DEA drug interdiction team.  The officer has at least 27 Chicago Police Department complaints. He was cleared on all but one.  Six of the 27 were for illegal searches.  He has also been sued, resulting in two settlements involving bad searches and a bad drug arrest.

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This happened to Gingerich in February, and he hired Attorney Michael Schmiege to get his money back.

“It’s not a quick and easy process.  It’s not like traffic court.  It can drag on for years,” said Schmiege.

Schmiege also says drug dogs often hit on the money.

“Most United States currency has trace amounts of narcotics on it,” said Schmiege.

Another twist is that Gingerich lives in California, where marijuana is legal.

“You’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty,” said Gingerich who wants his money back and interest too.

If Gingerich fails to get his money, it will be divided up between the federal government and local police on the task force.

The ACLU says Illinois gets $20 million to $30 million a year from these seizures.

DEA Statement: “The Asset Forfeiture Program aims to employ asset forfeiture powers in a manner that enhances public safety and security. This is accomplished by removing the proceeds of crime and other assets relied upon by criminals and their associates to perpetuate their criminal activity against our society. Asset forfeiture has the power to disrupt or dismantle criminal organizations that would continue to function if we only convicted and incarcerated specific individuals. Seizures made during the course of interdiction operations do not rely on only one fact when determining probable cause.  Multiple facts, circumstances, statements and other factors go into the decision to seize an asset.  These must be taken as a whole in order to understand the probable cause for a seizure, each of which, has a process for contesting available to them.”

Comments (38)
  1. Fred Bailey says:

    It’s called civil forfeiture, folks…read about it here:

    Civil forfeiture in the United States – Wikipedia
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_forfeiture_in_the_United_States

  2. Robert Quinn says:

    Can’t wait for government healthcare.

  3. Marijuana isn’t legal in California. Marijuana is illegal in every state in the US. It is a federal law, just because states have different laws doesn’t abrogate the illegality of marijuana in federal law.

  4. This is theft by TSA, pure and simple. If the police won’t make an arrest and the DA won’t prosecute, it’s time to call up heavily armed militia groups to destroy the tyrants.

  5. Jay Barbieri says:

    So many STILL think ours is a free country.
    Wilfull ignorance.

  6. It turns law enforcement into thieves.

  7. Well there is a reason they check when you leave Chicago. They are looking for drug money

  8. Rich Bees says:

    The cops, and TSA, are criminal organizations that invite disrespect for the law. It’s well known that the TSA steals iPads, watches, money and small electronic devices while having caught absolutely no one for terrorism. Most police organizations have internal mafias that specialize in civil forfeiture when absolutely no crime is charged or committed. They have brought all this on themselves – when confronted, they close ranks and protect Bad Eggs. That makes them all Bad Eggs, whether they participate in the theft or not. If the police in this country want respect, they had better start with their own behaviors. They shoot 100 dogs per day. Read that again. They see your dog as target practice, while if one of their dogs is killed, they have a funeral fit for Winston Churchill. Dear Police and TSA, stop being criminals and maybe you’ll get the respect you deserve.

  9. Douglas Self says:

    Knowing that the TSA will give you the proverbial rectal exam, especially if you’re flying one-way, which is often the case when picking up a vehicle, it’s foolish to carry large amounts of cash.

    About seven years ago, I purchased a vehicle via EBay which was sold from Southern California. I got a one-way flight to Ontario where the seller would pick me up; of course I was going to drive back from Corona that day. The car was sold for about $5,000, but with tax and license, which was difficult to specify down to the penny via email; I got a bank check for $5,000 and had some $650 for the remainder of the purchase, plus fuel and eats. Also brought a printout of the EBay transaction. Even with that all, I still got a thorough grilling from the TSA agents as to what was I doing flying one way with a “large wad of cash”. Incredible! You’d think they’d never encountered someone flying out to retrieve a car!

    It was the cash that was wanted, the Feds and cops know that even for an amount like $29K, which the loss would be crushing to most folks, many attorneys won’t touch it as the legal fees add up. And the words of the DEA make it clear that this is an extrajudicial measure: disregarding the Constitution is necessary to ‘interdict’ drug trafficking. It’s TOO HARD to actually apprehend criminals with sufficient evidence in order to put them away, but it’s EASY to grab cash from the citizens based on the flimsiest of pretexts and defy them to attempt to get it back in the face of a system that supports this legalized highway robbery.

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