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A man had $40,000 cash seized by police at Phoenix airport and had to go to court to get it back

Jerry Johnson standing in front of a semi-truck.It took almost three years for Jerry Johnson to get his money back.

Institute for Justice

  • A man who had $40,000 cash seized by police had to wait almost three years to get it back.
  • Jerry Johnson arrived at Phoenix Airport in August 2020 when detectives took his savings.
  • The owner of a small trucking company had flown to Arizona to buy a new truck at an auction.

Jerry Johnson was on his way to buy a truck in Phoenix, Arizona, when authorities apprehended him at Phoenix airport and seized the almost $40,000 cash he was carrying.

He’s had to wage a lengthy legal battle to get his money back.

Johnson, who owns a small trucking company in Charlotte, North Carolina, was accused of laundering money and  authorities refused to believe that he was operating a legitimate business, according to a press release from the Institute for Justice.

The nonprofit represented Johnson in his appeal after a trial court ruled that he could not even contest the forfeiture of his money.

Johnson started his business, Triple J Logistics, in 2015 after getting his commercial driver’s license. He owns two semi-trucks and employs two drivers. He wanted to expand his business, so he saved more than $30,000 and borrowed an additional $9,000 from his uncle to purchase another semi-truck. 

The Drug Enforcement Bureau of the Phoenix Police Department received a tip about Johnson’s trip in August 2020 and after conducting a background check, found several drug-related arrests, according to court documents.

Three detectives waited for Johnson at the airport’s baggage claim. They found the cash in both Johnson’s carry-on and checked bag, but refused to believe his reasons for carrying the funds and said they would arrest him if he did not sign away the money on the spot. 

He went back to Charlotte the following day without his money or a new truck.

While cash is not on the Transportation Security Administration’s list of banned items and poses no threat to airline security, agents watch for large amounts of cash and alert law enforcement when it is detected, the Institute for Justice said. But there is no law that restricts how much cash someone can carry inside the US. 

Johnson, who proved ownership of the money according to the court documents, was not charged with any crime.

On April 4, the Arizona Superior Court for Maricopa County ruled in favor of Johnson and for his forfeiture case to be dismissed with prejudice, meaning it cannot be filed again, according to court documents.

The court ordered Johnson’s money to be returned with interest, as well as compensation for legal costs.  

Johnson said in a press release Thursday: “I’m so happy to finally have this case dismissed, to get my money back, and to receive interest for the years that the government refused to return my money without proving I did anything wrong. And I am also eager to get back the money I paid out of pocket for my first attorney.

“I can now invest this money in my business so I can continue to grow it to provide for myself and my family,” he added. 

Dan Alban, a senior attorney for Institute for Justice, said: “It’s outrageous that Jerry had to wait this long to get his own hard-earned money back, but this shows just how unjust the entire civil forfeiture system is.” 

Scott Bullock, the nonprofit’s president, said the ruling was a victory for due process, property rights, and basic justice: “We will continue fighting the appalling practice of civil forfeiture throughout this country so that no one else has to go through what happened to Jerry.” 

The Phoenix Police Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.

Insider previously reported that the FBI seized $40,000 a couple held in a deposit box more than two years ago but refused to say why or return their cash.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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