But if recent allegations are true, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland may have taken this “policing for profit” to the next level by producing a forged document in support of an attempted forfeiture.
In the usual “upside-down world of civil forfeiture,” police and prosecutors already have all the advantages. They can seize and keep cash or property that they merely suspect is involved with criminal activity. And if the owner objects, then he or she has the burden of going to court and proving the property’s innocence.
In Baltimore, however, these legal advantages for the police may not have been enough for one federal prosecutor’s attempt to take Samantha Banks’ cash. Ms. Banks’ case, as the Baltimore City Paper explains, began when a TSA agent found $122,640 in cash in her husband’s bag. After DEA agents seized the cash, a K-9 officer with the Maryland Transportation Authority Police (MTAP), Joseph Lambert, had his dog sniff it. Unsurprisingly, as studies show about one third to ninety percent of all U.S. currency is tainted by cocaine, the dog alerted to the presence of narcotics.
Although the government found no drugs and did not charge Ms. Banks or her husband with any crime—she claimed that she and her husband are real estate investors and the money was for a real estate purchase—the U.S. Attorney’s Office decided it had probable cause to believe the money was connected to illegal activity and filed for forfeiture. After all, what did they have to lose? If the government successfully forfeited Ms. Banks’ cash, then the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the DEA, and—through a loophole known as “equitable sharing”—the MTAP could have split the $122,640 amongst themselves.