Air Pirates Rob a Passenger of $30k

How did these air pirates evade law enforcement? They didn’t. They were law enforcement.

According to the Washington Times, a man was robbed of over thirty thousand dollars in the L.A. Airport for traveling from Chicago with a small backpack over his shoulder.

In April of this year, two Drug Enforcement Administration task force members stopped a man named Issa Serieh at Los Angeles International Airport, asked him some questions, and seized $30,750 in cash off of him. They sent him on his way without charging him with a crime.

The task force members “were in a LAX terminal gate monitoring passengers arriving on American Airlines flight number 2220 which had traveled from Chicago,” according to a complaint filed last month at the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. And why were they monitoring that particular gate? Because “Chicago is a known consumer city for narcotics and Los Angeles is a known source city where narcotics can be purchased,” the complaint explains.

That fact, plus the fact that the Serieh exited the plane with “a small backpack over his shoulder,” are the only reasons given for why the agents initiated the encounter that would lead to over $30,000 in cash being taken from Serieh.

Now I suspect that Serieh was, in fact, up to no good. The DEA agents didn’t know it at the time but he had been busted in Nebraska transporting over a sizable chunk of marijuana. So it looks suspicious.

But the DEA never charged him of any crime. They robbed Seriah without any proof. On TV shows we get to watch heroic cops stake out narcotics transactions and take down drug trafficking rings. But in real life they just take money and are uninterested in anything else.

For his part, Serieh maintains his innocence. A court declaration filed by his lawyer states that the money was loaned to him by his uncle, and that he was stopped without probable cause. In a phone interview, Serieh’s lawyer Peter Herrick said the agents stopped Serieh solely on the basis of where his flight originated from, and that they took his money when they didn’t like how he answered questions about where he was going and how he planned to get there.

“Their preconceived notions of the way people should do things is way off the charts,” Herrick said. He said that information about Serieh’s previous marijuana arrest was “so irrelevant to this case that I didn’t even look into it.” He said that the government shouldn’t be able to take a person’s money away without first convicting them of a crime. In this case, Serieh wasn’t charged with anything.

The lawyer is biased for his client, but he is right that Serieh should be found guilty in a court of law. The asset forfeiture laws are criminal.