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IPFS News Link • Property Rights

After police seized Marine vet's life savings, ruling brings him closer to saving others...

•, By Teny Sahakian

The DEA returned his $87,000, but this Marine vet is continuing his fight to end civil forfeiture abuse

Stephen Lara was driving cross-country to see his daughters in California when a seemingly routine traffic stop ended with the Nevada Highway Patrol seizing his entire life savings of $87,000. 

"I knew at that moment that wasn't the place to fight this battle," Lara, a 42-year-old Marine veteran, told Fox News. "I had to stay calm."

It took Lara seven months to get his money back from the government, but his fight to prevent law enforcement agencies from getting kickbacks for seizing suspected but untried Americans' property remains ongoing.

After nearly three years, a new ruling denying Nevada's motion to dismiss his case brought new life to Lara's battle for vindication. 

"This is absolutely atrocious for our county, local, state and federal governments to be colluding with each other on taking assets from the very people that they're supposed to be serving," Lara said. "I've already got my money back, but that does not solve the problem." 

"I fully intend on seeing this through until we succeed and we're victorious," he added.

Lara left the Marine Corps in 2016 after 16 years of service, which included tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the pandemic, Lara moved in with his elderly parents in Lubbock, Texas, but drove for four days each month to see his two teenage daughters who lived with his ex-wife in a small California town outside Reno, Nevada.

In February 2021, he had about an hour left on his drive when the Nevada Highway Patrol pulled Lara over, saying he drove too close to a vehicle in front of him, body camera footage showed. 

The officer is seen applauding Lara on his safe driving before asking him to step out of his vehicle and start questioning him.