Innocent New Orleans Man Fights the Federal Government for His Life Savings

Kermit and his youngest son, Leo, lost their hotel jobs when the pandemic began. They decided to turn Kermit’s longtime side gig of hauling scrap metal into a full-time, father-son enterprise. But they needed a tow truck for the business to support them. In early November 2020, with Kermit’s cash life savings in hand, they flew to Ohio, where they had arranged to look at a truck that they hoped to buy and drive home. But when the truck turned out to be too large for their needs, they had to fly back to New Orleans.

At the Columbus airport, TSA screeners noticed that Kermit had a large amount of cash in his bag. They asked him about it but let him continue to his gate. Later, as Kermit and Leo were waiting to board their flight, DEA agents approached them and asked questions about Kermit’s cash. The officers were uninterested in Kermit’s and Leo’s evidence about the source and purpose of the money; it was clear the officers were simply there to take it.

The DEA agents took all of Kermit’s money. But they did not arrest Kermit or Leo or charge them with any crime. Instead, the agents let them board their plane to New Orleans without Kermit’s life savings.

About six months later, the government filed a civil forfeiture complaint in federal court, arguing that Kermit’s money should be permanently taken because it was somehow connected to drug activity—though they had no evidence for this,

IJ filed suit on Kermit’s behalf. Weeks later, prosecutors agreed to return Kermit’s life savings and dismiss the case with prejudice, effectively clearing his name. Kermit’s case highlights the fundamental injustice of TSA’s and DEA’s “see cash, seize cash” policy, which will continue to be litigated in IJ’s class action lawsuit.

“When they seized my life savings, every penny that I’ve worked for, every honest dollar that I earned over the last 25, 30 years, it made me feel like I was the dirt on the ground.”
IJ Client Kermit Warren

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