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Customs and Border Patrol Refusal to Release Aircraft

Posted on Aug 22, 2014

A client of mine had her aircraft seized first by Litchfield, Illinois Police.  After the State's Attorney in Montgomery County, Illinois determined the forfeiture would not succeed, he dismissed the forfeiture complaint.  The Customs and Border Patrol thought it a good idea to begin forfeiture proceedings after the State's Attorney dismissed it.  They notified my client of the impending forfeiture, keeping the aircraft in an unknown and locked location away from my client.  The main problem is that they were well out of time to begin such a proceeding.  This March, we contested the forfeiture and filed the appropriate response.  We heard nothing from CBP until August 20th, 2014 when I had a telephone conversation with one of their paralegals (O.Celeste Phillips) at the Chicago office.  She advised that they were "dropping" the forfeiture proceeding but could not release the aircraft until a K-9 sniff search was conducted upon the aircraft with negative results.  This was odd since the aircraft had been searched twice via K-9 after law enforcement took possession of the aircraft.  Did she think the police put contraband inside the plane after it was secured?  I advised her of that fact.  She didn't care.  She also stated that since the aircraft was removed to a remote location it was going to be difficult to find and have a K-9 perform the sniff search.  I asked her when I should expect release of the aircraft.  She told me to call back iin a couple weeks to find out if it was completed.  And, on top of her rendition she had a very bad attitude. 

But the story doesn't end there.  I asked her whether after the search was conducted and the aircraft cleared for release how we would get the keys.  She said after my client signs a "liability waiver" we would get possession of the keys.  Unbelievable.  I checked for other instances of this type of scenario involving the forfeiture attempt and release of property.  Apparently, CBP tries to get all property owners to sign the release but they will give in and release the aircraft without it being signed.

This is one example of your federal government hard at work, to unconstitutionally deprive an innocent property owner of their possessions.


Brian L. Polinske
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