About Me

My photo
This site is the inspiration of a former reporter/photographer for one of New England's largest daily newspapers and for various magazines. The intent is to direct readers to interesting political articles, and we urge you to visit the source sites. Any comments may be noted on site or directed to KarisChaf at gmail.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Congress must protect Americans from ‘policing for profit’ -- By Russ Caswell, The Washington Times

Motel owner lives through ‘civil forfeiture’ horror story 

The government sued my motel. Not me — my motel.

Congress must protect Americans from 'policing for profit'It sounds like something from a far-off banana republic, but it happened to me in Tewksbury, Mass.
I'm the proud owner of the Motel Caswell. My father built the motel back in 1955. It's been in the family ever since. I have been running the place for 30 years. It's a budget motel and my wife and I do our best to keep it in good condition.

I've never been charged with any crime in my whole life. As I learned firsthand, though, under what's known as "civil forfeiture," the government has the power to seize property if it's linked to a crime — even if the owners are completely innocent.

Even worse, I had to prove my innocence in court. For civil forfeiture, innocent owners like me are actually treated worse than criminals. Nobody — not the local police, Tewksbury officials or the feds — warned me my property could be in danger of forfeiture.

In these types of cases, the government sues the property, not the owner. My case had the bizarre name of United States of America v. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Mass.

I'm proud of my business and I do everything I can to keep my guests safe. I've installed cameras, keep a "do-not-rent" list at the front desk, regularly check IDs and license plates and keep the property well-lit. I've even given free rooms to the police so they can hold stakeouts and bust the bad guys.

Despite all that, the government still wanted to seize my motel because they claimed it was "facilitating" drug crimes. Over a 14-year period, I rented out rooms almost 200,000 guests.

The government only offered as evidence 15 drug arrests. Not 15,000 or 1,500 — just 15. A local paper found big-box stores down the road had more drug activity than my motel.

Not only could the government threaten to take my property, they could pocket the proceeds for themselves. Under a program called "equitable sharing," the police in my hometown teamed up with federal agents to seize my motel.

If they won in court, the Tewksbury Police Department would have earned 80 percent of what my motel is worth, or more than $1 million.

(Click link below to read more)
READ MORE Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Post a Comment