A northwest Iowa restaurant owner gained national attention last year after the Internal Revenue Service seized more than $30,000 from her account, forcing the eatery to close — but the IRS later dropped its case.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says there are many similar situations popping up lately that involve the U.S. Justice Department or the IRS wielding far too much power. “There can be good reason to seize property in a criminal investigation, but the law ought to be about protecting innocent people,” Grassley says. “Too often, we’ve seen just the opposite with civil asset forfeiture laws. It’s become a big business for the federal government.”
The Justice Department is taking steps to put more restrictions on how assets can be seized, but Grassley, a Republican, says there are still too many loopholes and opportunities for abuse. “I’m working on bipartisan legislation that will protect innocent people from being caught up in any sort of a dragnet,” Grassley says. “The bill I’m working on would enhance procedural protections for individuals if property is seized.”
According to Grassley, the bill would also reduce incentives for law enforcement to seize civil assets in these cases. Carol Hinders had run Mrs. Lady’s Mexican Food in Spirit Lake for 38 years, accepting only cash. Her frequent cash deposits caught the eye of the IRS and the whole ordeal began. While she did eventually get back the $33,000 the IRS had seized, she sold the restaurant and retired.