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IPFS News Link • Fourth Amendment-Search and Seizure

The FBI's Lawless Raid on U.S. Private Vaults Shows Why the Founders Created the Fourth Amendmen

• https://fee.org, Jon Miltimore

squad of FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration agents in March 2021 raided the Beverly Hills location of a company, U.S. Private Vaults, suspected of criminal activity.

Over several days, agents wearing masks photographed evidence, seized jewels, gold bullion, and coins, and confiscated some contraband (mostly drugs) from 1,400 safe-deposit boxes rented by an array of people, including a retired doctor, a saxophone player, a retired floor contractor, and at least two attorneys. 

The grand total seized by the FBI was $86 million in cold cash, as well as Rolex and Cartier watches, rare coins, and more silver and gold than even Yukon Cornelius could imagine.

U.S. Private Vaults, which was headquartered in Nevada, pleaded guilty to charges of money laundering and conspiracy the following year. (No one went to prison, and the company is no longer in business.) But it turns out U.S. Private Vaults wasn't the only party that broke the law. 

Last month, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the bureau violated the constitutional rights of safe-deposit box holders whose property was seized without probable cause, something the warrant explicitly prohibited.

To understand just how far the FBI overstepped its authority, it's worth examining the case of Don Mellein, a retired civil servant from California. 

Mellein was one of hundreds of people who had a safe-deposit box at U.S. Private Vaults, where he kept hundreds of thousands of dollars of coins for safekeeping. 

When the FBI raided U.S. Private Vaults, it didn't just search Mellein's safe-deposit box. It seized his coins, something the FBI had explicitly said it wouldn't do when it requested a warrant to raid U.S. Private Vaults (more on that in a minute).


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