Back in March of 2021, one of the first actions of Joe Biden’s Attorney General Merrick Garland was to have the FBI conduct a raid on one of the wealthiest safe deposit box companies in a Trump-supporting area in Beverly Hills. The FBI stole tens of millions of dollars in coins, cash, jewelry and family belongings from people who had nothing to do with alleged crimes of the safe deposit box company.
The people were Trump supporters with cash and the DOJ under Merrick Garland decided to crush them and take their stuff. Years later, these people still can’t get their belongings back from the FBI, under civil forfeiture rules.
We’ve covered this story extensively in the past, but it mostly got lost in the noise of the DOJ’s “shock and awe” campaign against the mostly peaceful January 6 protesters.
US Private Vaults was a private security company in Beverly Hills. They rented safety deposit boxes to people who lived in that zip code. US Private Vaults was under investigation by the FBI, but that had nothing to do with the hundreds of people renting safety deposit boxes from them.
When the FBI raided US Private Vaults, the warrant specifically said they did not have authorization to open any of the safety deposit boxes. They did it anyway. They ripped every box open and took the contents, often not even cataloguing it. In one of the videos of the raid, an FBI agent is seen dropping a one-ounce gold coin on the floor and then picking it up and putting it in his pocket.
It was an outrageous action that the FBI continues to try to justify based on civil forfeiture laws. The FBI confiscated tens of millions of dollars in cash and other items without a warrant, and they have steadfastly refused to give it back to these people. The warrant specifically instructed the FBI not to open the boxes!
This particular zip code in Beverly Hills, where these people live and where US Private Faults had its facility, has the highest concentration of vocal Trump supporters in all of Los Angeles County. Their neighborhood was one of the only ones that we saw in 2020 where Californians were having Trump vehicle parades and block parties.
Does anyone believe that this was a coincidence? Or did the FBI just loot all those safety deposit boxes out of caution? No. They did it because they knew they were going to be ripping off a bunch of Trump supporters.
The FBI took more than $85 million from these people who hadn’t even been accused of a crime. After a years-long legal battle, the FBI finally started returning some of the items. But the box holders say there’s stuff missing even when they do get some of their possessions back.
Don Mellein is one of the people who had his safety deposit boxes raided and his gold coins stolen. He had invested in precious metals as part of his retirement plan. He had 110 one-ounce gold coins in his box. After fighting with the FBI for years, they “found” 47 of his coins and returned them to him. The other 63, valued well over $100,000 were “lost.”
A retired doctor lost $75,000 in coins. Many others reported thousands of dollars in stolen cash. One lady lost her deceased mother’s wedding ring, which she had in her box for safekeeping.
Attorneys for the victims who are now suing the FBI to try to get their wealth back say the FBI simply decided to keep anything valued at more than $5,000.
The civil forfeiture argument is total BS. These people had nothing to do with US Private Vaults, other than the fact that they were renting safety deposit boxes there. The FBI is keeping their wealth and possessions on the off chance that they may have somehow been involved in a crime. They haven’t even been accused of any crimes.
That’s the ugly truth of civil asset forfeiture. Law enforcement can take your stuff even before you have been convicted of a crime. And if you’re a Trump supporter, they won’t give it back. Imagine having the courts stand up for the burglar who robs your home and steals your TV. That’s what is happening now as the courts continue to side with the FBI.