On March 22, 2021, the FBI raided the U.S. Private Vaults facility in Beverly Hills—seizing and searching over eight hundred safe deposit boxes. And on May 20, the government sent out notices indicating that it intends to forfeit the contents of over four hundred of those boxes. 

The Institute for Justice has filed a case challenging the government’s unconstitutional search of these boxes. In connection with that case, this page provides resources and information for USPV box holders. The information on this website is for general informational purposes only. It does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Information on this website may not be the most up-to-date, and it does not account for the individual facts of your situation. Readers therefore should not rely on this information. If you have questions about the U.S. Private Vaults’ seizure—or the forfeiture process generally—we recommend consulting a lawyer who can help you navigate the process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can the Institute for Justice help with my case?

Maybe. The Institute for Justice is currently looking to get in touch with a few categories of USPV box holders:

  • USPV box holders who received a notice from the government indicating that it was seeking to forfeit their property, who did not take any action in response to that notice, and who consequently had their property forfeited by default.
  • USPV box holders who filed a petition for remission or mitigation in response to a forfeiture notice from the government and who have not yet received a decision on that petition (or whose petition was unjustly denied).
  • USPV box holders who filed claims to their property in response to a forfeiture notice from the government and who have not heard anything from the government for more than 90 days after the claim.
  • USPV box holders who had their property seized by the government, but who have not received any notice from the government concerning the seizure.

If you think you may be in one of the above categories—and if you are comfortable with speaking with reporters and the public about your experience—we would be interested to speak to you to explore whether we could add you as a plaintiff in our ongoing case. Please submit your information here.

The government has filed a forfeiture case in federal court against the contents of my USPV box. Do I need to do anything?

Yes. In order to avoid the forfeiture of your property, you need to contest the forfeiture.

If you do not contest the forfeiture, then your property will be forfeited by default. That means you will lose all right to that property without the government needing to prove its case.  

I heard about other cases challenging the seizure. Should I just wait to see what happens in those cases? 

No. It is impossible to know what will happen in our case or in any other case that has been filed to challenge the government’s actions.  In the meantime, it is essential that individual property owners act to preserve their rights. 

I heard that the Institute for Justice case is a class action. What does that mean?

The court has certified a class consisting of USPV box holders whose property has been returned to them following the seizure. The Institute for Justice is representing this class and is seeking an order that would compel the government to destroy any records that it made of the contents of these boxes.

If you are an individual whose property was seized from USPV, and that property has not been returned, then you are not part of the class certified by the court. You should speak with an attorney about how best to seek the return of your property.

If you are an individual whose property was seized from USPV and was later returned, then you are a part of the class. However, if you believe you are entitled to some other relief beyond the destruction of records, then you would need to retain your own attorney to pursue that relief. If you have any questions about how the class action intersects with your own individual claims, you should speak with an attorney.

I am a USPV box holder whose property is currently the target of a forfeiture action in federal court. Should I retain a lawyer? 

Yes. The rules applicable to judicial forfeiture actions are very complex, and it would be extremely difficult to navigate the process without a lawyer.  

I am a USPV box holder whose property is currently the target of a forfeiture action in federal court. Can the Institute for Justice represent me?

No.  We are not currently representing USPV box holders who have had the government file a forfeiture complaint against their property in federal court.  The counsel with whom we are working in Los Angeles is familiar with attorneys in the Los Angeles area and can help refer you to an attorney.  He can be reached at nvora@voralaw.com.  

I received a notice letter from the government and filed a claim. Now I haven’t heard anything. What should I do?

If more than 90 days have passed since you filed your claim, then you may be entitled to the automatic return of your property under a federal law called the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act. If you are comfortable telling your story publicly, you should speak with the Institute for Justice to explore whether we might be able to help with your case. And, regardless, you should speak with an attorney to determine how to proceed.

If 90 days have not yet passed since you filed your claim, then you should wait to see whether the government takes action within the 90-day window.

I received a notice letter from the government and filed a remission petition. Now I haven’t heard anything. What should I do?

There is no deadline for the government to rule on a remission petition. However, if you are comfortable telling your story publicly, you should speak with the Institute for Justice to explore whether we might be able to help with your case. And, regardless, you should speak with an attorney to determine how to proceed.

I received a notice letter from the government, but now the deadline to respond has passed. Is there anything I can do?

If you received a notice letter from the government and the deadline to respond has already passed, then the government will likely take the position that your property was automatically forfeited by default. However, if you are comfortable telling your story publicly, you should speak with the Institute for Justice to explore whether we might be able to help with your case. And, regardless, you should speak with an attorney to determine how to proceed.

I am a USPV box holder, and my property was seized during the March 2021 raid. But I never heard anything from the government. What should I do?

In that situation, it is possible that the government has moved to forfeit your property without notifying you of the forfeiture. If you are comfortable telling your story publicly, you should speak with the Institute for Justice to explore whether we might be able to help with your case. And, regardless, you should speak with an attorney to determine how to proceed.

I need a lawyer, but my case is not right for the Institute for Justice. Can you refer me to other attorneys?

Our local counsel in our case is familiar with attorneys in the Los Angeles area and can help refer box holders to attorneys. He can be reached at nvora@voralaw.com.

Media Resources

Get in touch with the media contact and take a look at the image resources for the case.

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