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Government seizes money even though owners did nothing wrong

As we first wrote in December, 2013, a Michigan grocer is fighting the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to recover money the federal government seized from their bank accounts. Tomorrow, February 19, 2014, grocery store owners Sandy Dehko and Mark Zaniewski will have their day in court alongside their attorneys from the libertarian-minded law firm, Institute for Justice (IJ). They will meet the IRS at the U.S. District Courthouse in Flint, Michigan before Judge Terrence G. Berg at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow.

The case stems from when the IRS, without warning, seized $35,000 from Dehko's bank account and more than $71,000 from Zaniewski's business bank account because they decided the way the two were making deposits were suspicious. The 'secret warrant' seizure left the grocery store owners strapped for cash for nearly a year until the IRS decided to return their money. The small business owners were never charged with a crime.

In 2013, the IRS convinced a judge to grant a secret warrant to seize the business bank accounts of the grocery owners based on the fact the business was making frequent cash deposits. The government agency felt this violated a federal structuring law which, had the agency bothered to ask the owners before obtaining the warrant, would have realized the deposits were a part of their normal business practices - as is the case for thousands of other small business in the nation. Federal law requires banks to report cash transactions above $10,000, and it is illegal to “structure” cash deposits for the purpose of avoiding this requirement.

After the grocery owners explained, in detail, to the IRS things were on the 'up and up', the IRS still refused to give them back their hard-earned cash. It was only after they hired attorneys did the IRS reluctantly released their money.

“This case is bigger than Terry and Sandy Dehko and Mark Zaniewski; this is about protecting private property from forfeiture abuse for Americans everywhere,” said Institute for Justice Attorney Larry Salzman. The Institute for Justice represents the Dehkos and Zaniewski in these cases. “We are prepared to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if that’s what it takes to vindicate the right to private property for Americans everywhere.”

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