FBI Faces Lawsuits From Institute for Justice

The FBI is being sued because they didn’t return two people’s personal items that were taken during a raid in 2021. During an operation on U.S. Private Vaults, the FBI took personal items from several safe deposit boxes. Don Mellein and Jeni Pearsons say that the FBI took their things from their safe deposit boxes and hasn’t given them back.

Mellein’s box had 110 gold coins and an unknown amount of cash in it. When Mellein and his wife sold their Malibu home, they used the money they got to buy the gold. Pearsons’ box had silver worth about $20,000 and cash worth $2,000. These items belonged to 1,400 other customers and were also taken by the FBI during the raid.

Pearsons and Mellein were never charged with a crime. Following a guilty plea to plot to launder drug money, U.S. Private Vaults shut down.

The FBI told the two victims that their property would be taken away through a process called “civil forfeiture.” They had never heard of the process before. Pearsons did some study and found that one way to get back property gave the FBI the power to decide what should happen with the property.

Mullein got a lawyer, and Pearsons called the Institute for Justice. Both of them fought to get their things back. Even though they won their cases, parts of their things were stolen when they went to get them. Mullein’s coins were all gone, and Pearsons’ $2,000 in cash was also gone.

When asked for a picture of the video inventory, the FBI said that they used paper inventory instead of video because they were in a hurry to get the property safe.

A few months after Mellein sued the FBI to get his coins back, the government “found” them and gave back only a few of them. Mullein was told that the rest of the coins could not be “tracked down” unless he dropped his case and made a claim with the FBI. The FBI said in March 2023 that it had “investigated itself” and found no evidence of crime.

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