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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/16433/california-seizing-property-from-safety-deposit-boxes/

California Seizing Property from Safety Deposit Boxes

April 9, 2011 by

As reported by ABC News, what started out as a program to hold unclaimed property, such as the contents of safety deposit boxes owned by people who have moved away without a forwarding address, has gone wildly out of control. The program is now using the flimsiest of excuses to drill safe deposit boxes and sell the contents, often for below-market value, the proceeds going to the state’s general revenue.

In a case reminiscent of the Monty Python organ donor skit (or perhaps the movie Repo Men), a San Francisco woman’s jewelry appraised at over $80,000 was sold even though she lived a few blocks from her bank, had not moved, and was current on all of her box rental feeds. In another case, a man’s retirement savings consisting of $4 million of stock certificates were sold; and “A Sacramento family lost out on railroad land rights their ancestors had owned for generations”.

The program began life as a place to hold unclaimed property for up to 5 years while the state made attempts to locate the owner. Both the holding period and the efforts to locate the owner have diminished over time. ABC news indicates that there have been internal debates within the state on these changes, with an internal memo objecting to efforts to to find the owners on the grounds that “It could well result in additional claims of monies that would otherwise flow into the general fund.”

What surprises me about these seizures is the scale and how under-reported it is. This is the first article that I have seen on this topic, compared to dozens of pieces and several books on civil asset forfeiture. This phenomenon is probably at least as large as CAF — Jarret Wollstein cites a number in the low single-digit billions for asset forfeiture (which may be an annual number) compared to the $32 billion (which may be a multi-year aggregate) appearing in the ABC news story. In comparison, looting of safe deposit boxes requires even less due process than asset forfeiture, which at least requires that the property be accused of a crime, and can be fought in court.


nate-m April 9, 2011 at 7:35 pm

which at least requires that the property be accused of a crime

If this is not a indication of the general corrupt nature of the police state, I don’t know what is.

Policeman 1 says: “Blimey! I want a new car.” (he just got finished watching a Monte Python skit about cheese on youtube)
Policeman 2 says: “Yeah, your shocks are all worn out, gave me a back ache last time we were chasing those kids. I was kinda hoping to get a new vest, too. Mine kinda smells now and there is a new one out that caught my eye in the boss’s soldier of fortune.”
Policeman 2: (yelling) “Hey Chief we need some money for a car and some new vests.”
Chief: (walks in from a side room) “Well what you want to do about it?”
Policeman 1: “Well that Jacob that sells your cousin his pot. He has a nice house, right?”
Chief: “Sure, but he is a friendly? … oh wait. Yeah he sold us that Mexican crap last time and tried to pass it off as ‘premo skunk’.. what a prick. Screw him”

So they go off, drive around his neighborhood for a hour then pull him over for turning left without a blinker. They get the pot out of his car and then uses this as evidence to get a warrant to raid his house for a ‘grow lab’.

They seize the house, charge the house (which was owned by the dude’s mother) with a crime and then sells it at a auction for pennies on the dollar within 2 weeks. The dealer gets released a couple months later since they don’t bother to show up in court and the guy’s public defender gets him a dismissal.

Ken April 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Forget it, Jake — it’s Chinatown.

El Tonno April 9, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Gives a new meaning to “drilling to open up new resources”.

matt April 9, 2011 at 8:44 pm

proves the state nor the banks can be trusted

Rob Mandel April 10, 2011 at 12:22 am

Ah yes, my beloved california. The good news is that is not new news as it’s been going on for some time. Read about the Donald Scott case for example. Back in ’93 police raided his ranch (he was an “anti-government” activist, a millionaire heir, and a rather odd fellow I gather) and killed him in front of his wife. Then the cops posed like hunters over his dead body. Prior to raiding his property, they did an assessment of market value (as if a government agency has any appreciation of market value!!). The raid was conducted under the auspices of a anti-drug enforcement, but no drugs or marijuana plants or anything were found on his property. A court later awarded his family several million dollars in compensation for wrongful death.

I also remember several years before that, a friend’s in-laws ran a small dry cleaning business. A lady who worked there got pregnant and under california’s wonderful labor laws, they were required to make many thousands of dollars of improvements due to potential health risks. (Odd no, that should she choose to abort, then there’s no health risk present. Not that that was at issue, but it just goes to the very manner in which states work.) Well, they couldn’t come up with it in time, and the state, through CalOSHA was coming in to seize their assets. The night prior we went in there with a couple of trucks and grabbed all the equipment we could which would later form the basis of their mobile business.

This isn’t called the People’s Republic of California for nothing.

Daniel April 10, 2011 at 1:43 am

It’s funny that the state’s solution to a pregnant woman’s “job woes” is to get rid of her job.

Maybe they could have passed a law making it illegal to work or be employed while pregnant.

Oh wait, that wouldn’t make any seized-asset money.

nate-m April 10, 2011 at 2:56 am

It’s funny that the state’s solution to a pregnant woman’s “job woes” is to get rid of her job.

Pretty normal stuff if you think about it. After all: The state’s solution to low wages is to make it illegal to work for low wages then put you on welfare when you can’t find a job.

Walt D. April 10, 2011 at 3:01 pm

This is not the first or the last time – FDR stole the gold out of people’s safety deposit boxes. The NAZI’s seized money and gold from Jew’s banks. Socialists and drug addicts will steal other people’s property to keep their habit going.
The bottom line is that valuables are not safe in a bank safety deposit box – you’d be better off keeping them under the bed or buying a safe and bolting it to the floor.

denny April 11, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Hey, Walt D, Socialists and drug addicts can steal everything in sight and they still wouldn’t get closer than a few thousand light years to what those upstanding Americans wallowing in Wall St and the top five banks stole from us. Let’s never forget that the biggest ripoff of capitalists and their capital are capitalists (although I wouldn’t call these guys capitalists. ‘Crooks’ will do fine)

darteaus April 13, 2011 at 9:50 am

Uh, sorry, but Socialists take the cake. You complain about five banks? How about Fidel and Raul? Then own EVERYTHING – not 10%, but: EE VV EE RR YY TT HH II NN GG.

Did you get that? EVERYYHING. Did it sink in? Was it slow enough for you?

So, if you TRULY are disgusted by ripoffs, you would hate Socialists more than Capitalism. Somehow, I don’t think you do though.

denny April 13, 2011 at 11:14 am

Hey,There, Darteaus, I don’t remember saying I hated capitalism. Every system has it thieves and thugs and we certainly have our share; but you digress from the true situation. We are losing our shirts and you want to argue about Fidel Castro? You sound like a government man to me – direct the exchange into pointless arenas so we don’t discuss and come up with a plan of action concerning the real threats to our liberty and our wealth (I don’t believe Castro’s working for Goldman or Morgan. Maybe your are?). They, you, want us to keep the socialist/capitalist argument alive and well. Check it out – it’s not left/right anymore. It’s top/bottom. How’s your 401k doing? Most of the people I know have a lot less now than they did a few years ago. I’ll be happy to discuss a plan, the plan to throw these thieves in the clink where they belong. Castro, Chavez, whoever, didn’t empty my pocket. Americans did.

denny April 13, 2011 at 11:46 am

Let’s try again. Darteaus – Don’t recall saying I hated capitalism. If you hadn’t noticed, this isn’t capitalism anymore. It’s predatory theft (The elites hunt for wealth, mostly ours, and then steal it). Wall St. and the banks play ‘capitalism’ and if they lose, our money winds up bailing them out. Sounds like socialism to me. I don’t recall Chavez, Castro, whoever, reaching in and taking my money. Americans did. How’s your 401k doing? Most folks I know have a lot less today than they did a few years ago. The dialogue is irrelevant concerning left/right evils and differences. It’s become a top/bottom situation and if you hadn’t noticed, most of us are heading for the bottom. It’s the classic distraction. Keep the discussion political, not real. I’d much rather be discussing remedies to this blatant theft with you. These ‘financiers’ should be thrown in the clink; yet they’re out there right now, setting us up for their next haul. The real capitalists are currently losing their shirts, unable to acquire seed money from banks to improve or enlarge their businesses. Remember, almost 70% of American business is classified as ‘small’ business and these are the folks hurt the most by the Fed/Gov’t fiscal policies. Let’s talk about that, not some megalomaniacs in another country who have absolutely nothing to do with the course of the American economy.

Geo April 10, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Dang. I got all worked up into a righteous outrage only to discover the ABC news report you cite is three years old. Maybe the reason the issue is under reported is because of efforts to correct the problems.

If Chiang can be believed, the process has changed significantly. Here’s a link to his site:

Dave Scotese April 10, 2011 at 8:16 pm

We should know better than to expect improvements in the operations of governments.

I bet that every safety deposit box drilled into was housed in a private institution. I have to assume that the reactions of those institutions to the government’s program varied somewhat, simply because having your customers valuables taken from you while you’re collecting money for guarding them as some negative consequences.

I know most people don’t care how negligent and stupid a company acts in the face of government parasitism, but there are some that do, and most of us are in that latter group. So I captured some useful information from ABC’s report: “Bank of America told ABC News it deeply regrets the situation and appreciates the difficulty of what Mrs. Ruff was going through. The bank has reached a settlement with Ruff and continues to update its unclaimed property procedures as laws change.” There is a website dedicated to trashing BofA. I’m on the fence because I know the big banks are lapdogs the Federal Reserve, just like the government and I bank with Wells Fargo anyway.

I only wrote this comment to point out that naming names is generally more helpful than just complaining.

Walt D. April 10, 2011 at 10:23 pm

The IRS allows you to claim a tax deduction for the cost of renting a safety deposit box. I wonder why?

Johnny April 12, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Sounds like the easiest way to know where they r to me!!

Tom April 10, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Sure am glad it’s the government that’s doing this. Otherwise, that would stealing. :)

Beefcake the Mighty April 11, 2011 at 1:13 pm

This article is three years old. Granted, it’s an appalling story, but what is the point of posting it now? In addition, this post is misleading in that it makes it appear that this is a recent event that the media is ignoring. Granted (again), the media unfailingly lies in support of the state, but what really is the point here?

Walt D. April 11, 2011 at 3:07 pm

It may be old, but it is still timely. I’m sure that many people who are buying gold coins in preparation of the coming economic collapse, do not realize that they are not safe in a bank safety deposit box.

That's MS B!tch 2 u April 11, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Get over yourself. Stop requiring that everything be *spoon-fed* to people these days. Occasionally articles, such as this, are good reminders and/or some may have missed it on its first go-round. Don’t like it? Don’t read it!

Johnny April 12, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Agreed! I dodnt know about it, and I was glad to hear about it. Three years isnt Anything!!

William Flax April 13, 2011 at 10:13 am

This is far indeed from being funny; far from being only a cynical reminder of the capture of American Government by those without integrity, honor or the altruistic purpose to which they pretend.

In my opinion, rooted American families have a narrowing time frame within which to respond to what is happening. The Left is not just stealing the fruits of generations of honest effort; it further compromises our ability to fight back in many ways that the still wishful thinking choose not to observe–perhaps because subconsciously they recognize that they really do not want to have their mental comfort zone destroyed. Thus many make sardonic jokes about what is “politically correct,” without putting the very concept into the context of a people’s sense of who they are, from whence they came, and what values made that progress possible.

For ammunition for the fray–for those who want to challenge what is happening:
Conservative Debate Handbook

While we deal with a broad spectrum of issues, the economics is/are von Misesian.

William Flax

denny April 13, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Hey, Mr. Flax, When did Wall St. and the banks turn into leftists? Those are the people you’re referring to when you mention ‘…stealing the fruits of generations of honest effort’ I hope?

Joe Salonia May 10, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Start digging in. Stock up on supplies. Your government has evolved into a satanic corrupt can of worms. They have become your worst nightmare. They are led by the Manchurian,candidate, world deceiver, liar, liar, and he will be more destuctive to America than all the war’s than it has ever been involved in. We are now in what is prophecied and called the one thousand year Millennium. EXTRA,EXTRA read all about it. Take a short cut and get ahead of the naive sodomite’s. It’s in the Bible, and the Bible will tell you so. G I Joe.

lo May 28, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Banks are just evil. I’ve got a secret safe, a cave and a hole filled with gold.

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