The FBI is in hot water after somehow managing to lose a fortune in rare coins allegedly worth hundreds of thousands of dollars following a raid in California, and the owner is now suing them over it.
(Video Credit: Fox News Digital)
The raid took place two years ago in March 2021 and hundreds of people had their deposit boxes seized without any of them being charged with a crime. Two of those depositors are alleging the FBI stole their property.
“All we know is that their property was in a box and safe before the FBI broke into the box,” Joe Gay, who is an attorney with the nonprofit law firm Institute for Justice, told Fox News in an interview. “Once the FBI broke into the box, we honestly don’t know exactly what happened.”
“We don’t know if they lost it. We don’t know if somebody pocketed it and walked away,” he charged. “We have no way to know.”
The Institute for Justice filed two separate lawsuits on behalf of its clients Friday. Their property was taken from U.S. Private Vaults, a Beverly Hills–based company, in the raid after the FBI claimed the business was suspected of money laundering activities.
(Video Credit: Institute for Justice)
Both Don Mellein and Jeni Pearsons finally won in court and the FBI was told to return their property. That was when they found some of it was missing. They are now accusing the FBI of either incompetence or of stealing it.
“There’s literally been no explanation,” Pearsons remarked. “I think you have to assume that it’s the simplest explanation, and I think, unfortunately, the simplest explanation is they took it or lost it.”
Mellein is a 79-year-old retired civil servant. He kept cash and 110 gold coins worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in his safe deposit box. He had plowed the proceeds from selling his Malibu home in 2002 into precious metals.
Pearsons and her husband Michael Storc rented a box in 2017 to protect items that were valuable to them. They placed approximately $20,000 in silver and $2,000 in cash in their box.
Some of that came up missing.
Does anyone really believe they just lost them?
Cash and 110 gold coins worth hundreds of thousands of dollars just disappeared after the FBI broke into the safety deposit box. pic.twitter.com/09ziQh9Yzn
— Old School Eddie (@Old_SchoolEddie) September 25, 2023
Mellein was given his cash, but his gold coins were gone. The FBI claims to have no record of the coins.
It came out that the FBI neglected to film the seizure and only completed inventory paperwork according to the Institute for Justice.
He sued the FBI over the coins in August 2021. Eventually, the FBI returned 47 of them and then told Melleine he would have to dismiss his lawsuit and file a claim with the FBI in order to retrieve the remaining 63.
“In March 2023, after filing his claim, the FBI told Mellein it had investigated itself and that there was no evidence that it had done anything wrong or careless, according to the Institute for Justice,” Fox News reported.
— Sherry Morris (@RomComMystery) September 24, 2023
“The FBI had no reason to go through my box and they were careless in losing my savings,” Mellein stated in a press release. “For months I was told they didn’t have any of my coins before they eventually found some of them.”
“I’m disappointed that I have to sue again in order to get property back that should have been given back to me over two years ago,” he asserted.
U.S. Private Vaults shut down following the raid and in the end, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder drug money. The FBI seized nearly $86 million worth of assets from 1,400 customers according to Fox News.
All those boxes were seized in the raid. Mellein and Pearsons received a notice that the FBI was keeping their property through a process known as civil forfeiture.
Pearsons had never heard of that before and did some research on it.
FBI is becoming more like the KGB each and every day. I feel compassion for those men and women who are honest, hard working and respectable members who are tainted by association with these bad actors.
— Holy Forking ShirtBalls (@MissBeaHavin) September 24, 2023
“It was very disingenuous and shady even,” she told Fox News in an interview. “It’s the least transparent process. It’s not something that you would do if your intent was to find out who these items belonged to.”
When Pearsons went to get her box back in 2021, the $2,000 in cash was missing.
“’They’ve never said, ‘oh, no, that wasn’t in the box.’ They just didn’t give it back,” Pearsons stated. “And they told us at the time that someone from the U.S. Marshal’s office was going to call and talk to me about it, and then no one ever called.”
“Could be that the way that the FBI and the law enforcement carried this out is just really sloppy work,” she noted. “Or there was never any intention of giving it back, and so it really didn’t matter because they thought they just got to keep everything. So to them, there was one pile.”
“What we learned was that their incentive to forfeit everything they found crowded out their obligations to safeguard their property,” the Institute for Justice’s attorney told Fox News.
Imagine how other people have had their money taken from them like the FBI takes it and hasn’t said anything in fear the FBI would bury them. The FBI are just Americas modern day Mob
— Sean Garcia (@garcia4359) September 24, 2023
Mellein and Pearsons feel as though law enforcement has cheated and lied to them after this experience.
“When I was growing up, we trusted and respected law enforcement, especially the FBI,” Mellein remarked. “I’m not filing this lawsuit just for me, I’m fighting for a better world where people can trust law enforcement to do the right thing. I’m fighting to make law enforcement better.”
“I would love to be able to be thankful to law enforcement for taking care of whatever criminal circumstance there was and for making sure that my involvement with it didn’t have to be painful,” Pearsons commented. “But rather, they’ve literally stolen.”
“They don’t even have the ability to show me a video of them opening this up and going through it to say, ‘Oh, no, look, see, it wasn’t here,’” she claimed. “It’s just it’s so absolutely galling.”