If you breathed a sigh of relief when you heard Eric Holder was leaving, it’s time to inhale. Loretta Lynch is the queen of asset forfeiture. Here is what’s coming to your town.
When Long Island businessman Jeff Hirsch stepped up to the bank window to make a deposit one morning in May, 2012, the teller shot him a worried look. “You know, your account has been frozen,” she told Hirsch. “I’m not sure you want to put any money in there this morning.”
In fact, the disbelieving Hirsch soon learned, the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York had, without warning, seized the entire working capital — $447,000 — of Bi-County Distributors in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., the business Hirsch co-owns with his two brothers.
For Hirsch, it was one of those petrifying moments that could only elicit an incredulous, “This can’t be true!”
But it was true. Hirsch and his brothers, like thousands of other Americans in the past 10 years, had been targeted by law enforcement authorities on suspicion of a crime he had never heard of. His money had been seized as part of a federally sanctioned wave of “civil asset forfeitures,” with citizens losing homes and automobiles and life savings merely because they were suspected of some crime.
The subject is likely to come up at U.S. Senate hearings this week to review President Obama’s nomination of Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder as U.S. Attorney General, staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee say. It was Lynch’s office that inflicted the nightmare of disappearing funds on the Hirsches and refused to release the money even after overwhelming evidence that the brothers were innocent of wrongdoing.
Since 2008, police agencies have seized cash and property worth $3 billion, making more than 55,000 seizures, according to the Washington Post. Lynch’s office hauled in $113 million in civil forfeiture actions from 123 cases between 2011 and 2013, and a Wall Street Journal editorial described her office as “a major forfeiture operation.”
Last week, Lynch’s office finally gave the brothers their money back, two years and nine months after it had been seized and exactly a week before Lynch was scheduled to be grilled by members of the Judiciary Committee.
Who says things can’t get worse?