Mark Nestmann writing on protecting your assets…

Don’t trust banks to protect the money you’ve deposited? You’re hardly alone.

From a legal standpoint, the money you deposit in a bank no longer belongs to you. Instead, the bank owns it. You are merely just another one of their unsecured creditors. What’s more, in the event of future bank failures, the U.S. government has now signed an international agreement confirming that it will not pay off depositors.

Many bank depositors are making the entirely rational decision to withdraw their savings from banks. They’re taking the cash and storing it, often in a home safe.

Indeed, sales of home safes are soaring worldwide.

This behavior deeply disturbs the powers that be. In response, they’ve imposed stricter and stricter controls on cash.

In the U.S., one strategy the government uses to discourage people from holding cash is civil forfeiture. Under this Alice-in-Wonderland legal process, cops can seize your cash — or anything else you own — if they believe that it’s somehow connected to a crime…any crime. You don’t need to be convicted, accused, or even arrested for a crime to lose everything you own.

Consider the case of Emiliano Gomez Gonzolez. During a traffic stop, Nebraska state troopers asked Gonzolez for permission to search his vehicle. During the search, the troopers found bundles of currency totaling $124,700. Based on a dog sniffing narcotics residue on the cash, police seized all the money. This is hardly “proof” that the cash is the proceeds of illegal drug sales; more than 90% of US bills actually contain traces of cocaine.

Emiliano contested the forfeiture in court. Prosecutors neither convicted nor accused him or any of the other owners of the seized cash of any crime. Nor did police find any drugs, drug paraphernalia, or drug records connected to the cash. Despite these facts, a federal appeals court upheld the confiscation of every dollar found in the vehicle.

Emiliano was an exception because he fought the seizure of his cash. Most defendants don’t because the burden of proof is reversed in a civil forfeiture case. In a criminal proceeding, you have the right to be presumed innocent until a jury finds you guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If police seize your property in a civil forfeiture, it’s “presumed guilty.” It’s up to you to prove that it’s not associated with a crime.

That’s a tall order.

Cops love civil forfeiture because the seizing agency generally gets to use the seized property for its own purposes. It’s literally “policing for profit.” While each state has its own rules for what cops can buy with the money they confiscate, pretty much anything goes.

Federal law has authorized civil forfeiture since the dawn of the Republic more than two centuries ago. And it’s become quite profitable. The Department of Justice alone seized more than $4.5 billion in 2014. It’s just one of many federal agencies with the authority to confiscate property under federal civil forfeiture laws.

That should come as no surprise. In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled the federal government has a legitimate financial interest to maximize forfeiture revenues. Since then, federal agencies have developed highly sophisticated techniques to do just that.
Are you outraged? You should be.

Even if you don’t fit the “profile” for a civil forfeiture — and you probably do, because it’s so broad — you should seriously consider protecting your assets.

Today couldn’t be soon enough to do it.

Editor’s note: Mark Nestmann is a wealth protection advisor at the Nestmann Group.

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Image: ©iStock.com/MarioGuti

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