FBI breached rights of Beverly Hills safe deposit box holders: Judge

Local news
Joseph Ruiz, right, joins Jennifer Snitko and her husband Paul Snitko outside U.S. Private Vaults in Beverly Hills, where they rented safe deposit boxes, in an undated photo. The three are among more than a dozen customers suing the federal government to recover cash and valuables seized by the FBI. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Joseph Ruiz, right, joins Jennifer Snitko and her husband Paul Snitko outside U.S. Private Vaults in Beverly Hills, where they rented safe deposit boxes, in an undated photo. The three are among more than a dozen customers suing the federal government to recover cash and valuables seized by the FBI. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Federal authorities have suffered two new court setbacks in their attempt to confiscate tens of millions of dollars seized from Beverly Hills safe deposit boxes that the government was legally barred from searching.

U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner, in rulings issued Friday, rejected prosecutors’ rationale for keeping the cash that two people stored in the boxes they rented at the U.S. Private Vaults store on West Olympic Boulevard.

The FBI is trying to confiscate about $86 million in cash and millions more in jewelry and other valuables that agents found in about 369 boxes, based on unspecified allegations of criminal wrongdoing conducted by the box holders. The warrants authorizing the March raid of the store prohibited the government from searching whatever was inside roughly 800 boxes that contained valuables, because the FBI did not show that it had probable cause to believe that evidence of crimes would be found in each one.

In the case of one box holder who sued the government under a pseudonym to recover more than $914,000 in cash that was seized, Klausner rejected prosecutors’ request to dismiss the case, saying the government had “made no showing that there is anything illicit” about the person’s money.

Read the full story LATimes.com.

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