Feds Give Back Goods They Seized

(PresidentialInsider.com)- Last week, the Department of Justice settled a lawsuit in which it agreed to give back over $1 million that a California sheriff’s office seized from an armored car company that serves state-licensed marijuana dealers throughout the country.

The partial settlement involves a lawsuit filed by the Institute for Justice on behalf of the Pennsylvania-based company, Empyreal Logistics. In November and December, deputies from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s office stopped Empyreal vans during drug searches, seizing a total of over $1 million.

Since the proceeds from marijuana sales are legal in the state of California, the Sheriff’s office turned the money over to the FBI in hopes of being able to keep 80 percent of the haul through the Justice Department’s “equitable sharing” of federal forfeiture.

But that fell apart when Empyreal sued the DOJ, the FBI, and the DEA, arguing that federal forfeiture of the money from legal dispensaries would violate a spending rider from Congress that bars the Justice Department from interfering with a state’s medical marijuana programs.

With last week’s partial settlement, Empyreal dropped the federal defendants from its suit. However, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus is still being sued by Empyreal for exceeding his lawful authority by initially seizing the money from its vans.

Sheriff Dicus had described the lawsuit as a “special-interest crusade and a blatant attempt to interfere with ongoing local criminal investigations.” However, Dicus has not explained what these “local criminal investigations” entail or why Empyreal’s clients are implicated. Empyreal maintains that its clients are all operating in accordance with California law.

In the meantime, the company has been forced to reroute its vans to avoid San Bernardino County. It has also suspended its plan to open a “vault and currency processing facility” within the county, despite already investing over $100,000 in the project plus paying $21,000 a month in rent and utilities for the building.

In addition to the lawsuit against Sheriff Dicus, the company is also suing Kansas sheriff’s deputies for seizing $165,000 Empyreal was transporting from state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Kansas City, Missouri last May.