Resource: Pittsburgh Airport Forfeiture

By: Institute for Justice

March 4, 2020

Retired railroad engineer Terry Rolin’s life savings were seized by the government, but he hasn’t been charged with any crime. Terry saved up cash and kept it in his Pittsburgh home over many years. But when he moved out of his old house into a new, smaller apartment he didn’t feel safe keeping so much in cash savings. He asked his daughter, Rebecca Brown, to take the money home with her to Boston, deposit it into a new joint bank account, and use the money to replace his teeth and fix his truck, among other needs.

But she didn’t make it to Boston with her father’s life savings. Her bag was held by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) after she went through security screening because the money showed up on their X-ray. She was questioned by Pennsylvania State Troopers and then further by a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent. The DEA agent took the money without charging Rebecca with a crime or arresting her. After making them wait for months, the government told Terry and Rebecca that it wants to take that money for good using a legal process called civil forfeiture.

Terry and Rebecca didn’t do anything wrong. That’s why they are teaming up with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to file a lawsuit to get the money back from DEA. Furthermore, their lawsuit is a class action against DEA and TSA for practices that violate the constitution and are outside TSA’s legal authority. Finally, the individual DEA agent is being sued for damages because of his violation of Rebecca’s and Terry’s rights.