Russ Caswell is 68 years old. He has not been charged with a crime, yet the Tewksbury, Massachusetts, Police Department is using civil forfeiture laws to steal both his livelihood and his retirement estate.
Russ Caswell owns and operates his family-owned motel called, oddly enough, the Motel Caswell. It’s not the Ritz but that’s to be expected given the motel was built by Caswell’s father back in 1955. It is now, like many older motels across the nation, home to lower-income people such as seniors, as well as temporary workers who pay by the week or month.
While rates to stay there are not expensive, there is one thing the motel has that is very valuable to the thieving police department and the thieving federal government that’s helping the thieving local police department: equity.
Caswell owns the property outright. There is no mortgage on the property.
Why is this significant?
Because Caswell’s property has no mortgage, that means the State can keep the entire proceeds of the sale of the property after they steal it from him. When local or federal police departments steal from citizens using civil forfeiture laws they get to keep most or all of what they steal.
Of course they don’t call it theft or stealing… they call it cracking down on crime.
In the case of Russ Caswell, it makes absolutely no difference that he has never been charged with a crime. In fact, it’s not any actions he has taken that concerns the thieving police and federal justice department at all.
It’s the actions of roughly 30 patrons of his motel over the past 18 years who have been arrested on drug charges.
That’s right. Since 1994 approximately 30 people have been arrested on drug charges. The US Justice Department and its thieving local counterpart, the Tewksbury Police Department contend that Caswell is responsible for what people were doing in his motel rooms every minute of every day. His motel rooms were used to “facilitate” the crime of drug dealing, therefore the motel is guilty and must be seized as proceeds of crime.
Proceeds of crime?
Yes, absolutely. But Russ Caswell didn’t profit from any of the crimes allegedly committed in his motel rooms! Well, technically yes, he did. He was paid the rental fee for each room.
To quote George F. Will, who wrote about this horrific story,
Since 1994, about 30 motel customers have been arrested on drug dealing charges. Even if those police figures are accurate — the police have a substantial monetary incentive to exaggerate — these 30 episodes involved less than five one-hundredths of 1 percent of the 125,000 rooms Caswell has rented over those more than 6,700 days. Yet this is the government’s excuse for impoverishing the Caswells by seizing this property, which is their only significant source of income and all of their retirement security.
The lawsuit against Caswells' motel, “United States of America vs. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Massachusetts”, does not contend that the Caswells “knew or should have known” what was going on in their rented rooms. Civil forfeiture laws are written in such a way that what you have or have not done means absolutely nothing.
The motel rooms were used to “facilitate” crime, end of story.
The fact that the Caswells installed security cameras, record license plate numbers and photocopy customer IDs and turn that information over to the police means absolutely nothing. All that is merely used as evidence against the Caswells.
The true horror of civil forfeiture laws is that you must prove you are innocent; that you have NOT done something. That is, of course, absolutely impossible.
Let’s take a nightmare from the environmental movement for a second to show just how insane this is.
If you have a stream running through your property you will be restricted from doing almost anything to the stream, it’s embankment or its stream bed, even if by not doing anything you cause your home to be flooded or someone else’s home to be flooded. Despite years of research, the fact that you have never found a single fish in that stream means nothing. You cannot PROVE there are no fish.
Duh! Of course not! You cannot prove a negative. You can only prove what DOES exist.
The same is true of civil forfeiture laws. You cannot PROVE you have never done a thing; you can only prove that you HAVE.
The Caswells cannot prove they have NOT committed a crime; they can only prove they’ve done everything within their power, everything the police have asked of them, to prevent crime being committed on their property.
Civil forfeiture laws don’t care. It’s not about what you have or have not done. It’s about stealing the fruits of your labour to pad police budgets and line the pockets of officials corrupted by greed.
Take, for instance, the annual budget of the Tewksbury Police Department and you’ll see quite quickly why they’re so eager to steal the Caswells' motel which is valued at roughly $1.5 millon.
The annual budget of the Tewksbury Police Department is just $5.5 million.
Get the picture?
If they are successful in stealing the Caswell’s motel the Tewksbury Police Department will then sell it and keep up to 80% of the sale price, or $1.2 million. That’s 20% of their annual budget paid for with a single theft from a single private citizen!
That’s bureaucratic greed and government corruption run wild.
That’s Civil Forfeiture in action.
While this is an American case, we Canadians should not sit too comfortably on our laurels and think this horror has nothing to do with us. Every province in Canada has enacted these same laws and use them against all kinds of people for the very same reason: greed.
In British Columbia, for example, the government has hired teams of lawyers to deal with their civil forfeiture caseload. The kicker is that the government does not pay the lawyers a dime UNLESS they are successful in stealing property from citizens. These civil forfeiture lawyers are paid a commission on what they steal. It’s no different than the used car salesman doing everything he can to get you to buy a car from him. He doesn’t get paid unless you do.
Same goes for these civil forfeiture lawyers. They don’t get paid a dime unless they are successful, and since they get a commission of whatever they manage to steal, they have all the incentive in the world to steal as much as they possibly can each and every time.
That is corruption and greed implemented on a government scale, happening right here in Canada.
It’s got to stop.
If you want to learn more about the horrors of civil forfeiture laws I urge you to download and read the Institute for Justice report “Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture”. I’ve written about this Institute of Justice report before, and will again, I’m sure. It’s an incredibly accurate indictment of the entire civil asset forfeiture system that’s been implemented in America and here in Canada.
The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions.
Civil Asset Forfeiture has the greatest of intentions: to take the profit out of crime. The problem is not its intention, but with its implementation. It is implemented by greedy and power-mad bureaucrats, like the soul-sucking morons of the Tewksbury Police Department, who are oh-so-very-willing to sell their souls for a few more bucks in their police department’s annual budget.
Institute for Justice
For more detailed information on this horrific case, please visit the Institute for Justice website at http://www.ij.org/massachusetts-civil-forfeiture-background. This non-profit organization is helping the Caswells try and keep their property.