“Due process?! We don’t need no stinking due process!”

Chicago Tribune – 10/18/06:

A Burbank truck driver sued Wednesday to block Arizona authorities from seizing large money transfers sent from Illinois and 25 other states targeted because they have significant illegal-immigrant populations.

Arizona officials report that since 2002, they have seized $17 million in a little-known campaign to foil criminal networks that often wire money through Western Union and other firms to help smuggle drugs and illegal immigrants over the border from Mexico.

Wednesday’s suit, filed in federal court in Arizona, argues that the seizures are unconstitutional because the dragnet is too broad.

The Burbank man, Javier Torres, said he sent $1,000 via Western Union in March to pay for a car he bought from a friend in suburban Phoenix. When Torres’ friend did not get the money, Torres said he contacted Western Union, which passed along his name to Arizona authorities. Soon Torres said he received a call from state investigators, who said he had to prove the transfer was part of a legitimate transaction to get the money back.

Because he could not produce documentation of the auto purchase—he had already resold the car, he said—Torres never recovered the money he wired. He ended up having to pay his friend a second time by mail.

State courts have allowed Arizona Atty. Gen. Terry Goddard’s office to stop transfers that come from certain states, exceed a certain amount and are executed by certain companies during a specified period.

Most of the transfers were wired to recipients in Arizona. But until a court stopped the practice recently, Goddard’s office had seized some transfers from Illinois and other states to Mexico.

  1. Improbus says:

    We’re from the Government. We are here to steal from you. Please bend over and assume the position.

  2. JimR says:

    Oh pu-lease… Torres did a $100 transaction for a car and didn’t get any paperwork? That’s illegal isn’t it? Tax evasion? All he had to do was show a receipt and the money would be released. A minor inconvenience for helping uncover or foil criminal networks. Why didn’t he then get a receipt from his “friend”. The car was conveniently sold again without any records? I bet he can’t remember who he sold it to. Again, tax evasion. I suspect there was never a car and the State of Arizona caught Torres at his game.

  3. The other Tom says:

    I think the government should just go ahead and change thoe whole “innocent until proven guilty” to “guilty, until you get so sick of taking crap year after year that you finally break down and go through the extremely lengthy and corrupt judicial system wasting even more money, to PROVE you innocence”. Sound about right?

    Way to stick up for the little guy. Are you on crack?

  4. Awake says:

    And so the rewrite and erosion of the Constitution continues, slowly and steadily.

    Now you are officially “Guilty until proven innocent.”


  5. JimR says:

    Tom, you pay your taxes for protection from crime. Torres wasn’t wrongly inconvenienced. He was doing something illegal. There is no indication that “little guy” is not being hurt by the states actions. In fact they said “he had to prove the transfer was part of a legitimate transaction to get the money back.” If Torres was a “little guy” who is honest and legitimate the money would have been forwarded.

    Don’t complain when those you hire for protection do their job effectively.

  6. JimR says:

    Awake, there is no erosion here. Every time goods across the border to Canada or Mexico, they are effectively seized for inspection. If you don’t have legitimate paperwork the goods are held until you get it. Do you also disagree with that process?

  7. SN says:

    Thanks for clearing that up, Jim. It appears we need “legitimate paperwork” to send money from state to state. Can you please cite the relevant federal statute? Thanks.

  8. Awake says:

    JimR –
    You couldn’t be more wrong.
    The principle of justice is (or at least was) that the burden of proof is on the government that a crime has been committed in order to take any actions of the type described.

    Under your logic, the government should take your whole paycheck and dole you out an allowance, because you might not pay your taxes. In the process they should be able to make you prove that you are using the money that they give you for legal purposes, prior to giving you the money. Under the approach being taken, you are guilty unless you can prove you are innocent.

    The whole point is that there is no proof that the subject was doing ANYTHING illegal by sending money to someone else. I am an American Citizen, but I can send money to anyone in Mexico that I want to, without showing it’s purpose. It could be for buying drugs, but it could also be for supporting an orphanage. It is up to the government to prove that I am using the money for something illegal.

    Proof.. you need proof before a draconian measure like permanent removal of money can take place.

  9. Mike says:

    2. How does exchanging $1,000 for a used automobile from a friend have anything to do with taxes? The only way anything might be subject to a tax would be if the friend bought the car for, let’s say, $500 and then turned around and sold it to him for $1,000, because he would be realizing a $500 gain.

  10. spsffan says:

    Thank you Awake!

    But also note you say :”I can send money to anyone in Mexico that I want to, without showing it’s purpose. It could be for buying drugs, but it could also be for supporting an orphanage. ”

    Even if you did send the money for buying drugs, the government should charge you with drug trafficing, not just take the money. There’s a difference between justince and plain theft for Pete’s sake!

    I guess we just have to keep our powder dry until enough folks agree that we’ve had enough.


  11. Pfkad says:

    Man, ” a minor inconvenience for helping uncover ” this threat, and “a minor inconvenience for helping uncover” that threat and pretty soon they aren’t so minor anymore. I’m getting pretty tired of continually having to prove I’m an upright guy every time I fly, open a bank account or, the latest, having to enter my zip code to buy gas at the pump with my credit card.

  12. huskergrrl says:

    I live in a state with a high immigrant population and didn’t have my $52,000 wire transfer to Arizona seized. But then, I have an Irish last name.

  13. Mike says:

    There eventually comes a point where the people become subservient to the government they created. The problem is perpetuated with those people who say “well, if you don’t like the law, just elect different people and change it, ” when they don’t even stop to consider when and why it became permissible for such a law to exist in the first place. Why the hell is it the government’s place to arbitrarily decide how much money is too much to transfer to others or travel with, and then after the seize the money it becomes your job to prove to them that you weren’t doing anything illegal? That whole notion is contrary to ideas of individual freedom.

    Actually I know that much of this comes from the “war on drugs.” A “war” which has really only proved that politicians are much better at hyperbole to win elections than they are at actually solving problems.

  14. spsffan says:

    #12…you surely didn’t send $52,000 by Western Union…the fees alone would be enough to buy Torres’s car, probably two or three times over.

    A bank wire transfer which you probably used for a large amount like that is an entirely different animal.


  15. Mr. Fusion says:

    I would go to Western Union and ask for my money back. If they refused then I would take them to an Illinois Small Claims court. Interstate money transfers are a federal jurisdiction and Western Union should have gotten a federal court injunction to prevent Arizona from stealing the transfers.

    As SN pointed out, it is the state’s responsibility to prove their case that the money is tainted.

  16. AB CD says:

    It’s entirely up to the government to prove things wrong. So you’ll all agree that IRS audits shouldn’t require you to prove your money is legit? Businesses shouldn’t have to keep records?

  17. JimR says:

    SN, I guess things are different there. In Canada, any sale of an automobile requires payment of 6% to the federal gov’t and 8% to the provincial gov’t. The registration of that car has to be transfered as well. Don’t they do that down there?

  18. JimR says:

    Addendum… that is for Ontario. Other provinces have different provincial rates.

  19. Mr. Fusion says:

    16, AB CD, once again your logic fails you. By law, businesses are required to keep records. There isn’t just one law, almost any action a company takes has at least one and often several varied laws. A business isn’t a person and doesn’t have the Bill of Rights to fall back on as a person does. When a company is charged with a crime though, it then is up to the government to prove the crime was committed.

  20. Don says:

    I’ve thought those government forfeiture laws have been SCARY from the first I’ve heard of them.

    1) Why is Arizona blocking an INTERSTATE transfer of money. I thought INTERSTATE issues were a FEDERAL jurisdiction.

    2) It’s up to the person who bought the car to pay any relevant sales taxes then they register the car and transfer the title.

    3) There are existing laws about transferring large amounts of cash, but I am fairly sure that you only have to register the transfer so they can watch for patterns of criminal behavior. (They can’t seize the cash unless you try to avoid the registration process.)

    I personally do not work with large amounts of cash because of the chance of loss or theft, but I am getting very concerned about the loss of freedom in this country in the name of safety and security. It’s sounding like the end of ROBOTS. “Please stay in your homes for YOUR safety. If you fail to follow our recommendations, we may be forced to detain you against your will.”


  21. joshua says:

    While I agree the State of Arizona or any state for that matter cannot interfere with INTERSTATE transfers of any commodity, or money. I also tend to agree with Jim about Mr. Torres….something dosen’t seem on the up and up here(besides the state taking the money).

    The guy bought a car, then resold it before he paid for it and can’t prove any of the transactions. ummmmm

  22. SN says:

    “The guy bought a car, then resold it before he paid for it and can’t prove any of the transactions.”

    People in the real world, i.e., the working class, will buy cars without receipts all the time. I’ve bought and sold plenty of cars without obtaining “proof” of the sale.

    And you may not know this, but up in the north such as in Chicago, used cars from places such as Arizona are worth more. Up here we salt our roads in the winter which makes our used cars and trucks sort of rusty.

    My guess is that the guy bought the car with the intent of turning around and selling it quickly. And as far as I know, that’s still perfectly legal. Well, perfectly legal anywhere but Arizona.

  23. hani says:

    I think there are laws created to protect the freedom of everybody, but it seems like that does not exist anymore because the first ones to break the rules are people at governing positions. I agree with the idea of trying to stop illegal matters but once again government should have thought of a different way of stoping it. I wonder where the money is at right now and what was their purpose was when they took the money from many people who were only trying to send money to their families or do something positive.
    Now let’s say large amounts transactions seemed very suspecios, but my question is did they have suficcient evindence to freeze that money. It was not only one person but thousands of them. Did they ever investigate each single one of these cases in order for them to return the money or did they just asum that they could keep the money just because people sending money could not prove what they TRYING to do. I respect their decisions and actions taken and also Know that there is many more ways to stop criminals. One way is to startby the root.


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