Police Stole $138,980 From A Passenger At Boston’s Logan Airport

Over the weekend police stole $138,980 from a passenger departing from Boston’s Logan airport.

The man had missed his flight and bought a new ticket. The cash was spotted as he went through the TSA checkpoint. And the only justification for taking his money was that,

  • The man initially downplayed how much he was carrying with him

  • He was flying to a destination ‘known as a source area for illegal narcotics’

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (United States of America v. $30,750 in U.S. Currency) anyone flying between Chicago and Los Angeles can be stopped, searched, and their cash confiscated because “Chicago is a known consumer city for narcotics and Los Angeles is a known source city where narcotics can be purchased.”

Chicago and Los Angeles are “part of a federally-designated ‘High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.’” Of course so is New York, and cities comprising two-thirds of the country’s population. Flying between New York and DC or New York and Chicago would suffice under the standard used by the DEA.

Police took the man’s money and he isn’t likely to ever get it back. And the officers bragged about their exploits on Facebook.

The man was released. He isn’t being charged with a crime. He isn’t even accused of a crime. And they’re not even insinuating that he may have been involved in one. They just took his money. With fewer passengers going through airports these days, though, there are fewer marks.

Four 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.

Long before 9/11, which caused things to get so much worse, then-8th Circuit Chief Judge Richard Arnold wrote in a decision (1992):

Airports are on the verge of becoming war zones, where anyone is liable to be stopped, questioned, and even searched merely on the basis of the on-the-spot exercise of discretion by police officers. The liberty of the citizen, in my view, is seriously threatened by this practice. The sanctity of private property, a precious human right, is endangered. It’s hard to work up much sympathy for Weaver. He’s getting what he deserves, in a sense. What is missing here, though, is an awareness that law enforcement is a broad concept. It includes enforcement of the Bill of Rights, as well as enforcement of criminal statutes. Cases in which innocent travelers are stopped and impeded in their lawful activities don’t come to court. They go on their way, too busy to bring a lawsuit against the officious agents who have detained them. If the Fourth Amendment is to be enforced, therefore, it must be by way of motions to suppress in cases like this.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. As the saying goes, “all power corrupts, absolute power absolutely corrupts”

  2. After reading the post by the Massachusetts Police, this has to be the worst article you’ve ever written.

  3. With that insane amount of cash he’s better off renting a car from Hertz and go on a roadtrip to west coast or wherever his destination is.

  4. You have to be careful with ‘structuring’ too. If you bring $8000 one week, and $8000 the next.. even though it’s both under $10k, they can nail you.

    The government has full power to do whatever they want now.
    Lock us indoors
    Take our money

    I’ve been arrested for refusing to hand over my ID in a public park before.
    Cost ~$10,000 to fight that (A civil rights lawyer wouldn’t sue, even though he said I was 100% correct – as he said there was zero chance we would win in Minneapolis. The cops and judges there are just too close)

    Corruption here isn’t as bad as West Africa, or other places. But it is growing….
    I see it everywhere.
    The bigger the government gets, the more our freedoms go away ‘temporarily’ ‘for everyone’s own good’ ‘just because’.

  5. I think there may be more here than you are reporting though. The individual refused to sign a receipt for the funds. Why?

  6. I was (and still am) with you on the scandalous nature of these forfeitures, but in this particular case: “The would-be passenger refused to sign a receipt for the secured currency and left the building, walking away from the money.”

    I can defend not revealing how much money is there.
    I can defend an odor of narcotics on a lot of bills not being any actual proof that person was using drugs, carrying drugs, or buying or selling them.

    But come on. If this money were legitimately yours, why would you not at least sign for it so you can fight it out? Why would you walk away from $138,000?

    again, very much with you on how awful these forfeitures can be, but not so sure this one didn’t look, smell, and taste like something…

  7. Gary – you are ignorant as to crime. Fool. Stick to pushing credit cards and your academic day job.

  8. I can personally testify Troop F is great! Who travels with their life savings in cash?? Come on … We have so many illegals and drug dealers in Massachusetts it’s not funny. Anyone who thinks this was perfectly normal, is a moonbat. Great job Troop F!

  9. Civil asset forfeiture is a real problem (the money is literally charged with a crime, not the person), but I’m with some other commenters…in this case, the guy walked away from the money without signing anything? He definitely wanted to remove himself from the situation. Also, if this was a domestic flight to somewhere like Chicago or LA, I’m always confused why he couldn’t just drive to avoid TSA, or do a private jet share for ~$3-5K. Risk would go down by a lot.

    But I don’t believe drug dogs for a minute “MSP K9 Duke, who is trained to detect the odor of narcotics, showed a strong alert to the man’s belongings.” With $100K+ on the line, this dog’s handler knows what tricks he can use to make the dog alert on his belongings. Unless this was a double blind exercise (where the handler and the dog searched a random assortment of bags without knowing which one was ‘suspect’) I call absolute BS.

  10. @Jon and Steve, why should he have to prove anything? The cops are the ones that should have to prove something before they take his money. Maybe he was a billionaire and fighting it wasn’t worth his time. Maybe he was taking the money to his mistress and didn’t want his wife to know. Maybe he’s a conspiracy theorist who didn’t want to end up in some “government database.” Maybe he knew the futility of trying to fight. Guilty until proven innocent is not how America is supposed to work.

  11. Don’t know how this blatantly unconsitutional action (5th amendment says no one shall “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law”).

  12. Dude, this is such a dumb article. Gaslighting with tales of nurses and uber drivers when it is pretty clear that is not the case here. Stick to miles, not an ersatz beat reporter.

  13. They shouldn’t have been allowed to take it in the first place. Not the best case to make the case on, but signing a receipt is not due process.

  14. “He didn’t sign the receipt” for the people unconstitutionally stealing his money. Obviously he is guilty then. They probably should have just shot him on the spot and locked up his family in a labor camp. No need for any inconvenient due process or “innocent until proven guilty” garbage. Land of the free…

  15. Assuming the dog was not prompted to alert (Which I know does happen), if the dog alerted for narcotics and the man walked away without inquiring as to how to get his money back, that’s a pretty strong indicator something was not above board. I know that if I were carrying a bunch of cash and had it seized by TSA that I wouldn’t leave the airport till my own lawyer came down in person to advise my every move.

    That’s not to say this should be legal…

  16. This reminds me of a story Kyle at LALF wrote a few months ago that I also commented on (sadly Kyle’s response was trite and not substantive).

    As others have said, the main problem with civil forfeiture is that it works. Meaning most people don’t fight it (cost, time, inconvenience, exposure, etc.) and therefore further drive up statistics of “unclaimed or uncontested seizures” thereby incentivizing further seizures and establishing the public perception of justice done. After all, why wouldn’t you just answer the nice police officer’s questions (or fight the seizure) if you had nothing to hide?

    I’m curious if there were real consequences or accountability system for the officers who make these constitutionally effed-up seizures, would that change the process. Just as prosecutors don’t really have any negative consequence for overcharging crimes (the defendant just gets the case dismissed), officers don’t have any negative consequence for seizures that are later overturned.

    Thank you Gary for continuing to raise this very important issue.

    P.S. I agree the guy was probably no angel but the vast majority of important legal principles are fought on gray zone cases just to prove the point.

  17. @Sven – “ignorant as to crime”? I think I know a crime when I see it, and legal positivism aside, the perps here work for the government.

  18. Who is steals what. A person breaks the law by doing something they shouldn’t having and the bad guys are law enforcement. You see you MOONBATS are hard at work being MOONBATS while the MSP are busy doing real work.

  19. I prefer to call today’s police forces the Sturmabteilung.
    They are, after all, nothing better than jackbooted and often murderous, thugs.
    Wish it weren’t so. It wasn’t always….

  20. Gary

    You owe me a new BS detector after this posting!! The police didn’t steal his money, he declined to sign for it to avoid arrest. If he were engaged in a legal activity he would have been able to take the money and continue on, but after lying 4 times on how much he had he declined.

  21. How dare you title your article the Police STOLE the funds. Law Enforcement Officers enforce statutes. Work towards changing the laws instead of disparaging the 99.999% of reputable LEOs working their tails off to protect you. You should be ashamed and retitle your post immediately.

  22. Are you under any requirement to tell police how much you have on you when not crossing a border? Furthermore, does the TSA have the ability to stop you for traveling with a lot of cash? My understanding is that they can only address matters related to aviation security, which this certainly is not.

  23. I agree that the rules around civil asset forfeiture can be and sometimes are abused by government agencies, but unless the Masslive article is factually incorrect, this is decidedly not an example of such abuse. The guy isn’t getting his money back because he didn’t fill out the necessary paperwork – that’s a choice he made, it wasn’t forced on him. Kind of manufacturing an article and a sensationalist headline for a political purpose.

  24. Civil forfeiture is a problem when driving too. Policemen will sometimes ask you if you are carrying cash. If you say yes and it is more than a few dollars they can seize it, claiming it is drug money. It will be very hard to get the money back.

    It is really an abomination.

  25. Yes, this was probably drug money. But there is a major abuse of civil forfeiture in this country that needs to be addressed. There is a reason the Founding Fathers devoted their lives to preventing such activities.

  26. Terrible article Gary. Inform yourself BEFORE you write. You should just stick to pushing your credit cards.

  27. This guy may be a criminal but we do live in a police state. The local police are the least of the problem unless you are a black male.

  28. If I had all the money I owned with me and they tried to confiscate it I’d stay right with that money and refuse to go anywhere until they gave it back to me. The fact that this guy left it there is not normal…

  29. Yo – everyone here is MISSING THE ENTIRE POINT! I have lived, worked, studied and traveled in 61+ countries and have flown EVERYWHERE. ALL a person needs to do is PROVE where the money came from. A simple paystub showing income, bank statement, or one hundred other ways to justify the cash. Maybe this is intrusive – but MONEY LAUNDERING is a SERIOUS problem. And people don’t buy DRUGS or Contraband with personal checks. Duh. And if you’re innocent then who cares ?! This decision is based upon a TOTAL package. Yeah the dude looked, acted & smelled like a skunk. NO innocent person walks around with $138,000 cash and repeatedly lies about it – then WALKS AWAY from it! Duh. Yeah, the police are knuckeheads but CONSIDER the LOSERS they must deal with ALL day EVERY day.It seems 90% of the people with police problems – DESERVE those problems! Word.

  30. The rules in the 5th amendment are for the cops not the citizen. Regardless of whether the citizen has done something. Due process is there for a reason.
    I’m sure all you wannabe Gestapo would be fine if they made all of you count and account for your cash every time you traveled and decided to keep the money. You’d be just fine with that when it happens to you right? Right?

  31. @Howard
    Blaming “big government” is a familiar trope used by anti-government folk. They complain about government incompetence but keep electing corrupt and unethical politicians that prove them correct. These acts are clearly unconstitutional but it’s the conservative judges who allow them to be enforced. The Patriot Act, enacted after 9/11 is also clearly unconstitutional, as are the dollar thresholds at banks that trigger investigations.
    It’s not big government,, small governments can be corrupted by corrupt people.

  32. Gary obviously what you wrote is “fake news” as pointed out by multiple posters. The person refused, of his own volition, to sign the form. He voluntarily abandoned the money. It was not stolen by the police or anyone else. Seems to me it was probaby illicitly obtained money that he wanted no part of, but who knows.

    Please stick to facts and not try to push an agenda.

  33. Ok first, he couldn’t accurately say how much money he has, then he refuses to sign the receipt. No one willingly walks away 140k if they earned it legally. Too many suspicious actions, I sure as hell am not walking away from that money without a fight, I wouldn’t even leave the station without a lawyer coming in first.
    Maybe stick to peddling shitty credit cards and hating on AA.

  34. When you write articles about money being seized in America, why do you default to pictures of Bank of England £20 notes? Surely you can make your story more accurate with a stock photo of US dollar bills?

  35. In my business I occasionally fly with large amounts of cash and have been questioned by TSA about it many times. I remain calm and explain the situation. They have never confiscated my money. Yes, civil forfeiture is abused and clearly unconstitutional but to imply that greedy cops just grab any money they find is simplistic and false.

  36. we know one thing for sure “we are not living in the land for the free”

    that’s NZ…..

  37. And I am Australian, but “NZ is really that land of the free”, and “for the free”

    i lived there for work for a year.

    it’s difficult to explain what real freedom feels like, but it’s real and you do feel it…..

    probably what it felt like in America about 50 years ago.

  38. There’s only one thing standing between your money and all the good things the government would do with it for hospitals, children etc. and that’s a jury of your peers.

    When they can skip the jury there’s nothing.

    When they can vilify you in front of the jury (e.g. Michael Milken) there’s next to nothing.

  39. You guys are a bunch of loons justifying this theft perpertrated by police. You people justifying this type of government behavior are small minded incapable of any kind of critical thinking.

  40. He walked away from the money because they insinuated that if he did not, he would have to fight for it from jail. It’s unbelievable that Americans still don’t know how this goes down. Either sign for the money. hire a lawyer, and spend some time in jail, or just walk away.

    You know what you would do, because you’re sitting behind a computer and will never have to prove it. Everybody knows what everyone else should have done, and if they don’t do that, the receive “no sympathy”.

    That’s why I’m personally glad that these things happen. I know what kind of country this will be in a few decades, and I personally feel that Americans 100% deserve it. Everyone screams about how rich people have a right to their money, then they applaud when pirates seize their cash at the airport.

    Well, good, let them keep on seizing. It’s not like it will ever happen to you. No way, because you do this and you do that, you’re completely exempt. You’re you. And I’m with you. Government, take it all and keep taking it. People with cash are bad. People who lie are bad. People who fear you are bad. People who breathe are bad. There are no innocent people so go get ’em and show no mercy.

  41. > How dare you title your article the Police STOLE the funds.

    Weird comment since that’s exactly what they did.

    steal: take (another person’s property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it.

    I think piracy fits as well.

    If he was the perpetrator of a crime, why was he not arrested? If he was suspected of a crime, why was he not arrested? Because he paid off the cops?

    Answer: Because if he’s arrested, and found innocent, they may have to return that sweet, sweet cash. Instead, they turn a criminal loose to live amongst you and I, exchange for money.

    “Protecting you and me”?

    Where? Where did they do that? They let a suspected criminal walk free to commit more crimes. Is that your idea of protection?

    Great, we’re now some third-world dump with similar law enforcement techniques. Well done everyone.

    The painful stupidity of the American public has been a work in progress for the better part of a century. I think it’s okay to call it a success now.

  42. > MONEY LAUNDERING is a SERIOUS problem.

    Actually, it’s a made-up crime designed to allow the government to seize money more easily.

    It’s a crime loosely defined as “failing to give your money to the government”, and one of the few in which you have to prove yourself innocent, because it’s difficult to prove people guilty of a vague, made-up “crime”.

    60 years ago, with a stroke of a pen, every U.S. citizen who owned gold was a money launderer.

    Have you ever goofed off at work while you were on the clock? Congratulations, you’re a money launderer. You stole valuable time from your company, then spent the proceeds of that theft on food for your family. Did you ever take a questionable deduction? Did you speed on your way to the bank? Did you win money in poker game held in your home?

    Very little cash in circulation could not be alleged to be the proceeds of money laundering.

    And that’s just the point of it.

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