Two Civil Asset Forfeiture Lawsuits Settled in Nevada

Lily Dane
Activist Post

A Nevada county has settled lawsuits with two men who say they were subjected to illegal search and seizure incidents at the hands of a veteran deputy.

The Associated Press reports:

Tan Nguyen of Newport, Calif., and Michael Lee of Denver said in lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Reno they were stopped last year on U.S. Interstate 80 near Winnemucca about 165 miles east of Reno under the pretext of speeding. They said they were subjected to illegal searches and told they wouldn’t be released with their vehicles unless they forfeited their cash.

The suits accused the same veteran deputy, Lee Dove, of taking a briefcase full of $50,000 in cash from Nguyen after stopping him for exceeding the speed limit by 3 mph in September, and seizing $13,800 and a handgun from Lee during a similar stop in December.

Steve Balkenbush, a Reno attorney representing Humboldt County in the case, said the cases had been settled, but did not reveal how much money was involved.

John Ohlson, Nguyen’s lawyer, told a Reno television station his client received a check for the full $50,000 seized as well as $10,000 in attorney fees:

He wasn’t charged with anything. He had no drugs in his car. The pretext for stopping him was he was doing 78 in a 75.

The district attorney released a statement that claimed “every asset that was seized pursuant to those stops was lawfully seized.” But it acknowledged that resolution of their claims didn’t receive priority in the district attorney’s office because of staff shortages:

The cases involved Mr. Nguyen and Mr. Lee raised procedural issues in the District Attorney’s Office and those issues are being addressed by a review of every submitted case.

The lawsuits claimed the cash seizures were representative of a pattern of stopping drivers for speeding as a pretext for drug busts in violation of the Constitution. Both suits said Dove violated the men’s civil rights when they were stopped for speeding, searched for drugs, and forced to hand over cash.

The details on Nguyen’s stop and the department’s handling of the incident were reported by the AP:

Nguyen was given a written warning for speeding but wasn’t cited. As a condition of release, he signed a “property for safekeeping receipt,” which indicated the money was abandoned or seized and not returnable. But the lawsuit says he did so only because Dove threatened to seize his vehicle unless he “got in his car and drove off and forgot this ever happened.”

After Nguyen’s stop, the sheriff issued a news release with a photograph of Dove pictured with a K-9 and $50,000 in seized cash “after a traffic stop for speeding.”

“This cash would have been used to purchase illegal drugs and now will benefit Humboldt County with training and equipment. Great job.”

Humboldt County authorities say they are reviewing the forfeiture program, but say so far there isn’t any indication of wrongdoing by the police department.

In a recent notable civil asset forfeiture lawsuit, Nebraska police were ordered to return $1.07 million that they wrongfully seized from Tara Mishra. The judge also ordered the government to pay $39,035 to cover her legal fees.

Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple, where this first appeared. Her goal is to help people to “Wake the Flock Up!”

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