Asset Forfeiture and the Rule of Law

Thank goodness for the drug war so we can have crappy asset forfeiture laws that allow this:

You're free to go -- but we'll keep your money.

That's the position of Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard on the failed case of Mario de la Fuente Manriquez, a Mexican media millionaire accused of organized crime.

Manriquez was arrested and charged earlier this year with 19 counts of money laundering, assisting a criminal syndicate, conspiracy and fraud. Seven other suspects, including Manriquez's son, were arrested in the alleged scheme to fraudulently own and operate several Valley nightclubs and exotic car dealerships.

Charges against Manriquez's son, Mario de la Fuente Mix, were dropped in August. And on Monday, as we reported, the state moved to drop the case against Manriquez.

But the state still wants to keep $12 million of Manriquez's money that was seized in the case, a spokesman for the AG's office tells New Times today.

The folks involved don't strike me as particularly savory characters, but due process is due process and if you drop charges against the guys, the money should be considered legally clean, especially when the authorities confess

Prosecutors acknowledged the money funneled to the United States from Mexico was earned legitimately by Manriquez. In the end, they couldn't prove he knew what was happening with his dough.

What happened to the money, by the way, is that is was invested in a series of businesses that appear to be entirely legal, their only apparent crime being that the incorporation paperwork omitted the name of Manriquez as a major source of funds.  Wow, money legally earned invested in legal businesses, with the only possible crime a desire for confidentiality (at worst) or a paperwork mistake (at best).  Sure glad our state AG is putting his personal time in on this one.

I do not know Arizona's forfeiture laws, but if they are like most other states', they probably allow state authorities to keep the seized money to use as they please, an awfully large incentive for prosecutorial abuse.


  1. REACH:

    Everything is just because of the money.

    Poor wants to be rich,rich wants to be much everything happens.

  2. Bob Smith:

    What paperwork are they talking about? In the states I'm familiar with, shareholders need not be named on the public paperwork filed with the secretary of state. Does Arizona law require they be named?

  3. morganovich:

    these laws are insane.

    in california, if you are in a vehicle suspected of being used in a drug crime (including possession) your car/boat/plane can be seized on the spot and sold at auction before you even go to trial.

    how on earth is that due process?

  4. John Moore:

    Asset forfeiture laws are an abomination and a disgrace for the US. How they are held constitutional, in most cases, is beyond me.

    However, don't blame the war on drugs - blame the politicians who do this sort of stuff, and especially the prosecutors.

    If it were up to me, it would be illegal for any prosecutor or former prosecutor to hold any elected public office. That would tame them and reduce the abuses.

  5. ADiff:

    When corrupt Mexican police & proprietorial officials seize assets, such as cars and property, and never relinquish it in spite of their being no illegal activity found, we're aghast at a Mexican government that's so fundamentally corrupt as to allow it.

    But is our State A.G. any different? Apparently not. The State can take your cash, your cars, you property and your real-estate...not due to the commission of any crime, but merely by virtue of the State's suggesting their may have been special categories of crime involved.

    It's completely wrong, completely un-Constitutional, and increasingly, completely the same way it works here, too.

    For those who fear Mexican immigrants impact on our culture, perhaps more refugees from a society where such arbitrary official corruption destroyed their economic prospects in the land they fled would be a bulwark against this kind of thing. They've seen the destruction wrought by such arbitrary power, and felt its damage first hand, and might be expected to oppose having the same evil destroy the society to which they've fled in hopes of building something for themselves they might actually be able to be protected by effective property rights.

    What's the line that divides keeping the money because they 'know their guilty' from knowing their guilty so they can keep the money? I would contend, none at all, and that lines already crossed regularly, here in this country.

  6. Mesa Econoguy:

    Law enforcement regularly confiscates lawful firearms on the same premise. You can effectively be disarmed without cause and explanation.