Iowa Forfeiture Victim Will Get Her Money Back

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · December 15, 2014

Arlington, Va.—The most contentious civil forfeiture fight in the nation is almost over. The government has moved to drop its case against Carole Hinders, who owned Mrs. Lady’s Mexican Food in Spirit Lake, Iowa, after hearing her sworn testimony last week. The government will also return all of the nearly $33,000 it seized from her in 2013. The Institute for Justice and Carole teamed up in October to clear Carole’s name of any wrongdoing and get her money back.

Carole will get her money returned, but in a mean-spirited move, the IRS is asking the court for the right to refile the case in the future and outrageously repeated its claim that the case was justified. IJ will be filing a response, asking the court to deny the government any right to refile its case and clearing the way for Carole to get interest on the money that was seized.

“I actually wanted a trial, which would have cleared my name and helped to protect others, but it is good to get the money back. My fight is far from over, though. I am willing to tell my story to Congress to help change forfeiture laws so that no one else has to go through what I suffered,” said Carole Hinders.

The case has received significant attention from the press, including The New York Times and Des Moines Register. Carole owned and operated Mrs. Lady’s Mexican Food for 38 years. The restaurant only accepted cash, which meant Carole made frequent cash deposits at the bank. Federal law requires banks to report cash deposits larger than $10,000. Since her deposits were less than $10,000, the government claimed she was deliberately making small deposits to evade the reporting requirement.

The IRS seized Carole’s money using civil forfeiture, which allows law enforcement agencies to take cash, cars and other property without so much as charging the property owner with a crime. Carole has not been charged with a crime. The government has never claimed that any of the money that it seized from Mrs. Lady’s is the proceeds of illegal activity—only that civil forfeiture law allows them to seize money merely suspected of being involved in crime.

“The IRS should not be raiding the bank accounts of innocent Americans, and it should not take a team of lawyers more than 18 months to get it back when they do,” said Institute for Justice (IJ) Attorney Larry Salzman. “This case again shows why civil forfeiture laws have become one of the most serious threats to private property rights in the nation.”

“Instead of simply returning the money with interest and an apology to Carole for the nightmare they put her through, the IRS is shamefully attempting to mask their retreat by insisting on the right to refile the case in the future,” said IJ Attorney Wesley Hottot. “This was an outrageous abuse from the start and the government should recognize that.”

The Institute for Justice is leading the fight against civil forfeiture nationwide. To learn more, visit