Arizona’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Scheme: Distorted Justice

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Phillip Londen

At the age of nineteen, Shamoon Yousif moved from Iraq to Mesa, Arizona, where he opened two grocery stores. After his wife was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, Yousif asked his brother Sami to manage one of his grocery stores. Unbeknownst to him, Sami began to stock Yousif’s store with stolen goods purchased from “boosters” for resale. In May 2008, police seized much of Yousif’s assets—including his home, his car, his two stores, his bank accounts, and his recently-deceased wife’s jewelry. Police seized the property pursuant to an ex parte seizure warrant based only on probable cause. His property was seized without prior notice, and he was denied a prompt post-seizure hearing to challenge the seizure.

Yousif was charged with a number of racketeering offenses, including trafficking in stolen property, fraudulent schemes and artifices, and illegally conducting an enterprise. With no constitutional right to counsel due to the civil nature of the forfeiture proceedings, he was forced to mount a defense  with virtually no assets at his disposal. Like many who find themselves in this unfortunate scenario, Yousif settled. Today, he is indebted to the State of Arizona and turns over the bulk of his salary to a racketeering fund, which law enforcement agencies have come to depend on to fund future racketeering investigations.

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