Armored car company, busted for hauling legal weed money across Kan., is suing feds

A complaint submitted by the U.S. Legal professional for the District of Kansas seeks the forfeiture of $165,620 observed in a van that was transporting the revenue to a credit score union in Colorado. Carlos Moreno / KCUR

By DAN MARGOLIES
Kansas Information Service

An armored automobile company made use of by certified marijuana dispensaries in
Missouri and other states is suing the federal government, saying legislation
enforcement agents have illegally seized dispensary hard cash the enterprise was
transporting.

The federal lawsuit, submitted in California final 7 days
by Empyreal Logistics, comes following a sheriff’s deputy in Dickinson
County, Kansas, stopped one particular of Empyreal’s autos final 12 months on
Interstate 70 for an unspecified visitors violation and seized practically $166,000 in dollars it was transporting from cannabis dispensaries in Kansas City, Missouri, to a credit history union in Colorado.

The
U.S. Attorney’s Place of work in Kansas subsequently submitted a civil forfeiture
action towards Empyreal, arguing the seized hard cash was traceable to gross sales
that violated the federal Managed Substances Act. (Cannabis is
classified as a Routine I drug below the act.) That circumstance is pending.

In
Oct, KCUR sought records connected to the end from the Dickinson
County Sheriff’s Office less than the Kansas Open Documents Act. Doug
Thompson, the Dickinson County counselor, responded by saying that the
documents ended up in the arms of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

KCUR
then sought the information from the DEA in November underneath the federal
Liberty of Details Act. The DEA has nevertheless to react to KCUR’s
ask for.

Empyreal’s lawsuit, having said that, alleges that Dickinson
County Sheriff’s Deputy Kalen Robinson pulled over Empyreal’s motor vehicle, a
Ford Transit van, as it was heading east on I-70 simply because the Colorado
license plate tag was a little bit lined by the license plate holder.
Robinson stopped the auto a next time the future day as it was
heading west toward Colorado and seized the funds.

Empyreal’s
lawsuit accuses Robinson as effectively as sheriff’s deputies in California of
performing in live performance with the DEA to perform “pretextual stops” of
Empyreal’s automobiles, “searching them, and seizing the hard cash contents —
masking up their surveillance cameras and often harming Empyreal’s
automobiles to accessibility the cash in their secured vaults — and are then
turning the seized income more than to federal legislation-enforcement for forfeiture
proceedings less than the federal equitable sharing application.”

Beneath
the federal equitable sharing system, the federal governing administration shares
assets seized in civil forfeitures with point out and nearby regulation enforcement
agencies.

Empyreal suggests that not a single visitors citation was
issued to an Empyreal driver for the duration of any of the five site visitors stops
talked about in its complaint.

It states federal and point out law
enforcement organizations are concentrating on its armored autos “because it is incredibly
lucrative for these law enforcement organizations to seize the income proceeds
that Empyreal is transporting and hold that dollars employing civil
forfeiture.”

Dan Alban, an attorney with the Institute of Justice,
which represents Empyreal, claimed Empyreal had in the beginning considered the
Dickinson County quit as a one particular-off event. But due to the fact then, its autos
have been stopped 4 far more situations in California, three of them in the
past two months alone. The vehicles have been transporting hard cash from
condition-certified hashish corporations in California.

“I believe they
commenced to come to be pretty involved that this was an ongoing sample of
action and that they were being remaining specific. And so they needed not just
to have to defend versus these forfeiture actions immediately after the fact” but
to find authorized reduction protecting against long term seizures, Alban stated.

In
addition to alleging violations of the Fourth Modification and because of system,
the lawsuit seeks to block potential stops, searches and seizures of
Empyreal’s motor vehicles “based solely on the real or suspected presence of
dollars attained by condition-authorized cannabis dispensaries without reasonable
suspicion or possible lead to.”

‘Writing on the wall’

“Empyreal
could see the composing on the wall,” Alban reported. “They could convey to they
were remaining targeted — all of these stops and searches — 5 in whole so
considerably. And so in order to carry on working their armored motor vehicle small business,
they necessary not to be qualified by the feds or local sheriffs for these
continued stops, queries and seizures.”

Empyreal is even now seeking
to get better the dollars that was seized in Kansas in the pending civil
forfeiture proceeding. The U.S. Attorney’s Office environment has declined to
remark on the scenario.

The forfeiture motion is remaining prosecuted by
Colin D. Wood, a retired KBI senior particular agent who now serves as a
federal contractor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office environment with the title of
Particular Assistant U.S. Attorney. He did not react to a ask for for
remark.

The targeted visitors quit in Dickinson County took spot very last May perhaps.
The U.S. Attorney’s Workplace submitted the civil forfeiture motion 3
months later.

Lawyers not concerned in the situation have questioned
why it was introduced, specified that it doesn’t involve the seizure of
cannabis but alternatively proceeds from its sale and specified that the
dispensaries whose income was seized are licensed under Missouri’s
health-related hashish program.

Through the Obama administration, the
Division of Justice issued a memorandum stating that federal
prosecutors would not implement the federal prohibition in opposition to cannabis
in states that had legalized it. And federal legislation enacted in 2014
prohibits the Justice Department from spending funds to interfere with
the implementation of point out healthcare hashish legislation.

The
legislation, recognised as the Rohrbacher-Farr amendment, should be renewed
each yr. It was renewed previous year and remains effective by way of Feb.
18.

In its lawsuit, Empyreal claims it has been pressured to suspend
its functions in San Bernardino, County, California, has stopped
transporting hard cash as a result of Kansas, has missing customers and has been not able
to roll out new products and services in a number of states since of issues about
the stops and seizures.

“If these incidents keep on to happen —
and there is every single sign they will — it will threaten Empyreal’s
business model and its capacity to keep on offering fiscal
infrastructure for the point out-lawful professional medical cannabis business by properly
relocating funds from business premises into the authorized banking technique for
higher transparency,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit names as
defendants the U.S. Office of Justice Attorney Typical Merrick
Garland the FBI FBI Director Christopher Wray an assistant FBI
director overseeing the bureau’s Los Angeles subject business the DEA DEA
Administrator Anne Milgram and San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon D.
Dicus.