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Feds Seize Widow's Legally-Obtained Money — Because Terrorism

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Tags Legal SystemThe Police StatePrivate Property


The banking system in the United States today functions largely as a spy agency for the federal government. It is designed to assist federal agents with observing your every financial move, and it is assumed that every bank customer is a criminal. Such laws can be loosely described as falling under the "know your customer" schemes in which the feds have made it the job of financial institutions to assist the feds in surveillance of the public's financial lives. 

Much of this was born out of the War on Drugs — the gift that just keeps on giving to the government — but has been greatly strengthened in the name of fighting terrorism since the late 1990s. 

It's fairly well-known today that if one deposits $10,000 or more in one's bank account, this raises an automatic red flag for federal agencies. Less well-known is the fact that if you break up that $10,000 into two deposits of $5,000 dollars, you've now committed a federal crime called "structuring" — a felony in many cases. And, of course, the feds will steal your money, too, if they think you've done it. 

The latest victim of this is an Iowa widow, Janet Malone, who made a couple of deposits of legally-obtained money. It's unknown whether she knew there was anything illegal about what she did (the feds of course claim it was willful). But that doesn't matter since federal prosecutors don't have to prove criminal intent to get a felony conviction. No, it's your responsibility, citizen, to be aware of every single one of the tens of thousands of federal laws and rules that can turn you into a felon if you run astray of them in the process of peacefully living your life. One can't help but be reminded of the book Three Felonies a Day in which author Harvey Silvergate explores the many ways you commit felonies every day without trying. In other words, virtually any person in America could be arrested on federal charges today, at this very moment, if the feds wished to. And of course, if the feds wish to target anyone, they need only find out which felonies that person has lately committed, and proceed accordingly until the person is broke or in federal prison. 

Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is a senior editor at the Mises Institute. Send him your article submissions for Mises Wire and The Austrian, but read article guidelines first. Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado, and was the economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.

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