Andrew Wimer
Andrew Wimer · April 9, 2024

WASHINGTON—Linda Martin was never charged with a crime, but the FBI held onto her life savings for two years and only returned them after she filed a federal, class action lawsuit. That lawsuit sought to halt the FBI’s use of constitutionally flawed forfeiture notices that fail to tell property owners exactly why the government thinks it can take their property forever. Linda will appeal after the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed her case Friday afternoon.

Linda was one of hundreds of individuals who saw their valuables seized by the FBI in a March 2021 raid of US Private Vaults, a Beverly Hills security deposit box company. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently found the raid to be a violation of the Fourth Amendment. An earlier district court ruling in that same case found that the FBI’s notices were unconstitutional.

“It is disappointing that the court split from previous rulings that the FBI’s raid of US Private Vaults and its forfeiture notices violated the Constitution,” said IJ Attorney Bob Belden. “When the government takes your property, it should clearly state what laws it believes were violated. That is not what happens in many FBI forfeiture actions which just vaguely reference hundreds of possible crimes. What happened to Linda and to many other Americans is wrong and we will appeal.”

When Linda got a notice saying the FBI intended to keep her $40,200 forever, she was left utterly bewildered. Lacking any idea about why the government took her money, Linda unwittingly filed a petition that gave the FBI free rein to decide if it would return any of her money.

“Even though it never said I committed a crime, the FBI held onto my savings for two years. That’s just plain wrong and I’m going to continue to fight for justice,” said Linda.