Judge blocks FBI from keeping valuables seized from safe deposit boxes in Beverly Hills raid

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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)

A federal judge has blocked the FBI from confiscating some of the valuables it seized from safe deposit boxes at a Beverly Hills business, saying the government appeared to be violating the owners’ rights.

The temporary restraining order issued Tuesday by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner marked a setback for the FBI in its attempt to keep as much as $86 million in cash and millions of dollars more in jewelry, gold and other valuables that agents took from 369 safe deposit boxes at the U.S. Private Vaults store on Olympic Boulevard.

The FBI has claimed the owners of the cash and valuables were engaged in criminal activity that justifies the confiscation of their property. The agency, however, has not publicly disclosed evidence to support the allegation.

Citing the 5th Amendment’s protection against deprivation of property without due process, Klausner faulted the government for failing to specify in its forfeiture notice the reasons for taking the cash and valuables of four box holders who filed one of a dozen lawsuits following the March raid on U.S. Private Vaults.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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