New Orleans Grandfather Had Life Savings Stolen At The Columbus Airport

A New Orleans grandfather and head deacon in his church had his life savings confiscated from him at the Columbus, Ohio airport.

Kermit Warren was laid off during the pandemic, and he decided to turn his scrap metal side business into a full-time business. He needed a bigger truck, and thought he found the one he needed in Ohio. He agreed to an all-cash offer, and brought the $30,000 for the sale. But when he got there he found the truck was too big. So instead of driving home, he bought a one way ticket on American Airlines from Columbus, Ohio to Dallas – Fort Worth to New Orleans.

Kermit Warren Boarding Pass

Kermit Warren at American Airlines Check-in With His Bag Of Money

The TSA flagged his bag, which had his savings intended for the truck purchase. There’s nothing illegal about traveling domestically with cash (although leaving the country with $10,000 or more requires filling out a form). However three DEA agents approached him at his boarding gate and confiscated the money. There was no evidence of any crime, and the man was never charged. His money was simply taken from him.

There is currently a nationwide class action moving forward against seizing traveler cash at airports. The law firm litigating the class action is representing Kermit Warren pro bono.

The class litigation arguing that the TSA exceeds its legal authority when it detains passengers (and their cash) after screening has ended, that TSA violates the fourth amendment rights of these passengers – who have already been screened – detaining them without reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct, and that the DEA violates the fourth amendment seizing cash without probable cause.

Over $200 million a year is seized at the 15 largest airports, at the discretion of law enforcement, and being over $10,000 cash is enough for them to do so.

  • Five years ago I wrote about a man who had his life savings confiscated because his luggage smelled of pot. It’s enough for your Uber or Lyft driver’s vehicle to smell like pot on the way to the airport for the government to seize your cash. This was one of over 90 such seizures in a year at the Cincinnati airport alone. (Full disclosure: I became an expert witness in the case but it didn’t go to trial, the government backed off and returned the man’s money.)

  • Around the same time I covered a man who had $44,000 seized at New York JFK even though he was never charged with a crime. He couldn’t get his money back because it took him 90 days to get assistance jumping through all of the required hoops to file a petition for the funds to be returned — and the government only gives you 35 days to file in federal court.

  • I’ve also written about a nurse who was carrying cash with her to start a medical clinic in her home country. She knew she had to declare when she was bringing more than $10,000 cash into the country. But she didn’t know – and most people don’t know – that you have to declare when taking more than $10,000 cash out of the country. She was never charged with any crime, but the government insisted she waive her right to sue and allow them to keep some of her cash to ‘cover their costs’ incurred during the harassment. Hers was one of 278 cash seizures just at the Houston airport that year.

Here is more on civil asset forfeiture, from Last Week Tonight:

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. You can thank gropin’ joe and his demokkkrat co-conspirators for “civil asset forfeiture” as well….

  2. “From 1985 to 1993, authorities confiscated $3 billion of cash and other property based on the federal Asset Forfeiture Program, which included both civil and criminal forfeitures.[14] The methods were supported by the Reagan administration as a crime fighting strategy.”

  3. @Amazing Larry I’m not sure if you’re being facetious or not. Civil Asset Forfeiture is a VERY bipartisan program. It provides a substantial source of funding for government agencies and police forces large and small without any oversight, appealing to politicians of all stripes.

  4. The only thing standing between your money and the government is a jury of your peers. When they can get around that, then there’s nothing in their way.

  5. America is just a fascist state pretending to be a “democracy”. What you’re describing here is simply unthinkable in Russia, China or EU!

  6. @Andy – just ignore the mental midget. Everything he comments about here always has some sort of political slant. Some people just have sad, pitiful lives.

  7. Amazing Larry is almost always full of BS and wrong. Civil Asset Forfeiture is a remnant of the Reagan administrations “War on Drugs”. A “war” by the way that has been a total and complete failure.

  8. @WileyDog and President Biden says (wrongly) that Afghans won’t fight? What if the Afghans say the US domestic war on drugs is a failure because Americans won’t fight in the war against drugs?

  9. Can we all just agree that regardless of political party the government doesn’t really care about the people and only care about themselves and lining the pocketbooks of its cronies?

  10. @Andy:

    “No Hidin’ from Biden

    Biden, a young Senator from Delaware, had to do something to show that despite his “liberal” reputation, he could be just as tough on crime as his Republican colleagues. He took notice of the RICO law, and he realized that law enforcement agencies were not taking advantage of it, particularly in regards to the Drug War. He turned to the General Accounting Office and asked them to produce a study on the potential uses of RICO for drug enforcement.

    Reagan brought the FBI into the Drug War. Drug cartels must be rendered unprofitable.

    The report showed that the RICO Act granted enormous powers to police to confiscate drug-related assets, but these powers were not being taken advantage of: “The government has simply not exercised the kind of leadership and management necessary to make asset forfeiture a widely used law enforcement technique,” the report stated. By the time the report came in, Ronald Reagan was settling into office and getting ready to wage a renewed War on Drugs.

    Reagan brought the FBI into the Drug War, and he gave the director, William Webster, a mission. His agents would use the RICO Act powers to find drug rings and take away their assets. Drug cartels must be rendered unprofitable.

    As the 1980s progressed, the War on Drugs would be the country’s biggest political issue. Politicians from both parties would work to show that they could out-Drug-Warrior their opponents. One Democratic Representative from Florida, Earl Hutto, said, “In the war on narcotics, we have met the enemy, and he is the U.S. Code.” Biden brought the RICO law to the attention of the Federal Government, Reagan enlisted the FBI to use it against drug traffickers, and now both parties would work to dismantle any legal limitations the law might still impose.

    The Drug War became a contest of political one-upmanship. Reagan’s Justice Department fought for all kinds of new powers. Attorney General Edwin Meese and his Assistant Attorney General William Weld (yes, that Bill Weld) railed against the limitations on their legal prerogative. Weld went so far as to argue in favor of the legality of using the Air Force to shoot suspected drug-smuggling planes out of the sky, a policy that even his boss was unwilling to endorse.

    With this law, federal agents had nearly unlimited powers to seize assets from private citizens.

    But Meese, Weld, and everyone else seemed to agree that forfeiture laws didn’t go nearly far enough. By requiring an indictment, the government still had to meet some standard of reasonable guilt before seizing property, which allowed far too many criminals that law enforcement knew to be guilty (but couldn’t build a case against) to keep their ill-gotten gains.

    To take things further, the Justice Department argued that law enforcement should be allowed to take “substitute” property; they knew they wouldn’t be able to take everything that was paid for with drug money, so it stood to reason that they should be able to take legally acquired assets of equal value (however that was determined). And finally, with real estate off limits, the government was unable to seize marijuana farms, drug warehouses, and criminal homes.
    Enter New Legislation

    The Comprehensive Forfeiture Act fixed all of these problems. The new bill was introduced by Senator Joe Biden in 1983 and it was signed into law the next year. With this law, federal agents had nearly unlimited powers to seize assets from private citizens. Now the government only needed to find a way to let local and state police join the party.

    This came with the 1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act. In addition to a slew of new powers for prosecutors, the burden of proof for asset seizure was lowered once again (agents had to only believe that what they were seizing was equal in value to money believed to have been purchased from drug sales). More significantly, the bill started the “equitable sharing” program that allowed local and state law enforcement to retain up to 80 percent of the assets seized.

    So the law, which allows crooked cops to steal from ordinary citizens doing NOTHING illegal was pedo joe’s baby.


  11. @Amazing Larry
    Soooooo, everyone named in the link you provided is a Republican (Nixon, Reagan, Meese, Weld), except for then-Senator Biden. Therefore, it’s all his fault. You still have no credibility, though I also agree with @Jorge Paez.

  12. @WileyDog: OMG…. can you read?? It was CLEARLY his brainchild (when he still had a brain) and he presented it on a silver platter…. much like he presented a shitton of military hardware and Afghanistan itself on a silver platter to terrorists.

    Not saying repubs are blameless… pretty much everyone in government desires more power, more money. Nothing shocking there.

  13. Potato Joe’s son Hunter has an extra $30k to blow on crack and prostitutes.

  14. @Amazing Larry
    The question is: can YOU read? You blame it all on then-Senator Biden. with lame “Not saying repubs are blameless”. And I thought only the far left blamed people for things they did 40 years ago!
    As for @Flying.While.High.Again” you can always spot a lack-of-arguments moron because they resort to name-calling, like little children.

  15. Kudos to “US Failure”and “Jerry”. To all of you posters who are blaming one party or the other get real. They are BOTH responsible for this BS. It is one thing to seize legitimate drug related assets following a drug bust ( something I support), it is another to go after innocent people and then give them no due process. That is why Americans are growing increasingly disenchanted with both political parties!

  16. @USFailure

    Civil Asset Forfeiture is very democratic. That’s the problem. Democracy just means slavery of 49% by 51%. Democracy doesn’t mean freedom. Government telling us what we can do with our money is anti conservative. The war on drugs, which civil asset forfeiture is done under the guise of, is anti conservative (government telling us what we can and can’t do with our own bodies). Unfortunately, conservatives are fooled into supporting the enforcers of leftist laws (cops) when we should be doing the opposite.

    Remember something: the patriots on Jan 6 protested at the capitol against things like civil asset forfeiture. The cops protecting the politicians protected civil asset forfeiture. Any conservative who supports cops is a fool. We obviously hate them for different reasons than thugs and BLM but we should still hate them.

  17. @CMorgan

    You’re right about both parties. Both parties are really the same globalist party behind closed doors who play faces and heels (wrestling) for the public. If you look at it, everything tends to come down to one vote (Obamacare, the tax cuts, the infrastructure bill, and etc). It’s for show. Nearly all in congress want things the way it is. There are some aberrations like AOC, Marjorie Green Taylor, and Lauren Boebert, and Trump certainly was.

    You’re wrong to support the war on drugs and money seizures related to it. Government telling us what we can and can not do to our own bodies is a form of slavery. If you don’t allow people to do what they care to do to their own bodies, you are no different than a slave master. Democracy is dictator with majority rule. It’s a big shame conservatives don’t have real leaders who explain to us the reality it’s illogical for us to support democracy (leftist) and the cops enforcing it.

  18. I feel so bad for him. Hopefully TSA will return the cash back but who knows. In the future, I guess it’s better to just write a check instead of carrying thousands of $$$ cash especially if flying domestic.

  19. I hope the legal case is successful. This is so blatantly unconstitutional, I don’t know see how anyone can defend it. I am fine with this type of forfeiture if a person is convicted of a crime, but only then. I have read enough of this type of cases, that I would never carry more than a few hundred dollars worth of cash with me, but many people don’t know that this kind of officially authorized theft occurs. It’s the stuff of a police state. Time to put an end to it.

  20. It’s utterly ridiculous to carry a bag of cash to board a plane. But being ignorant should not cause you to lose your money permanently. There must be many law firms that would take this case pro bono. As far as the political comments above go, that’s real ignorance. I’m sure if I read enough of them I’d see the name Trump. Too bad people have forgotten how to actually think. I guess it’s easier to just blather away about politics than think about solutions for the actual situation here.

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