Border Patrol Agents Seize 64-Year-Old American’s Life Savings — And Won't Return It Despite Not Charging Him With a Crime

Cleveland resident Rustem Kazazi was strip searched by customs officials at an airport last year.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents are being accused of seizing a 64-year-old man’s life savings — and then refusing to give it back to him even after they declined to charge him with a crime.

The Washington Post reports that Cleveland resident Rustem Kazazi was strip searched by customs officials at an airport last year because officials suspected he was involved in smuggling, drug trafficking or money laundering.

As part of the search, officials seized $58,000 in cash that Kazazi was carrying on him — and they still haven’t given it back even though they did not uncover enough evidence to charge him with a crime.

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Kazazi denies that he was involved in any nefarious activity, and he says that he was carrying that much money on him to bring to his native country of Albania, where he had planned to make repairs to family properties.

Kazazi is now suing the customs agency for allegedly breaking federal law by holding onto his money. As the Post notes, the case is part of a broader controversy surrounding the practice of civil asset forfeiture, which allows police officers to take suspected criminals’ assets during searches and hold onto them even if the suspect is never charged with a crime.

“The government can just take everything from you,” Wesley Hottot, the Kazazi family’s attorney, tells the Post. “You have to affirmatively show you’re not a criminal to get your own money back.”

 

Brad Reed is a writer living in Boston. His work has previously appeared in the American Prospect Online, and he blogs frequently at Sadly, No!.