If you have ever been to or traveled through Arnolds Park, Iowa, chances are you have seen or at least heard of Mrs. Lady’s Mexican Food. Known for it’s large portions and low prices, this family-owned, cash-only restaurant has become a staple for those living in Dickinson County.
Carole Hinders has made an honest living owning and operating Mrs. Lady’s for the last 38 years. But in August of 2013, everything she saved—roughly $33,000—was seized by the Internal Revenue Service. Hinders has not been charged for tax evasion, or money laundering—in fact, one year later, she still has not been charged for any crime at all. The IRS claims her bank account was seized solely because she was depositing less than $10,000 at a time. Last time I checked, making small cash deposits into a personal checking account is not a crime.
According to the New York Times, the IRS seized Hinders’ honest living by enforcing an “increasingly controversial” law known as civil asset forfeiture. This law allows property to be seized if it is suspected of being connected to criminal activity. The problem is, law enforcement is not required to explain what the criminal activity is, much less prove that the person is guilty of such activity.
Under current law, law enforcement agencies may take property suspected of involvement in crime without ever charging, let alone convicting, the property owner. In addition, state agencies routinely use federal asset forfeiture laws; ignoring state regulations to confiscate and receive financial proceeds from forfeited property.