United States v. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Mass. (The Motel Caswell) Federal & Local Law Enforcement Agencies Try to Take Family Motel from Innocent Owners
magine you own a million-dollar piece of property free and clear, but then the federal government and local law enforcement agents announce that they are going to take it from you, not compensate you one dime, and then use the money they get from selling your land to pad their budgets—all this even though you have never so much as been accused of a crime, let alone convicted of one.
That is the nightmare Russ Caswell and his family is now facing in Tewksbury, Mass., where they stand to lose the family-operated motel they have owned for two generations.
Seeking to circumvent state law and cash in on the profits, the Tewksbury Police Department is working with the U.S. Department of Justice to take and sell the Caswells property because a tiny fraction of people who have stayed at the Motel Caswell during the past 20 years have been arrested for crimes. Keep in mind, the Caswells themselves have worked closely with law enforcement officials to prevent and report crime on their property. And the arrests the government complains of represent less than .05 percent of the 125,000 rooms the Caswells have rented over that period of time.
Despite all this, the Caswells stand to lose literally everything they have worked for because of this effort by federal and local law enforcement officials not to pursue justice, but rather to police for profit.
How widespread is the problem of civil forfeiture abuse nationwide? In 1986, the year after the U.S. Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture Fund was created—the fund that holds the forfeiture proceeds from properties forfeited under federal law and available to be paid out to law enforcement agencies—took in just $93.7 million. Today it holds more than $1.6 billion.
The Institute for Justice, a national public interest law firm that fights civil forfeiture abuse nationwide, is now representing the Caswells in defense of their property and their constitutional rights.