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Homedigital originalsThe FBI seized a woman's life savings. Here's what she had to...

The FBI seized a woman’s life savings. Here’s what she had to do to get it back

The FBI returned a Los Angeles woman’s life savings — money she was keeping to buy a house — after seizing it two years earlier with no explanation.

Despite never being charged with a crime, the FBI seized Linda Martin’s safe deposit box during a March 2021 raid through administrative forfeiture, a move that enables federal agencies to seize property without judicial involvement. She went years without explanation, but her $40,200 was returned in July after she filed a nationwide class action lawsuit with the Institute for Justice (IJ) in March 2023.

“I’m relieved to finally have my savings back, but it has been a confusing and frustrating process from the moment it was taken,” Martin said in a statement IJ released in July. 

IJ said the FBI’s forfeiture notices are a violation of the Fifth Amendment which requires “the government to provide specific factual and legal reasons for forfeiture.”

The DOJ’s asset forfeiture policy manual defends the practice, stating its goal is to “punish and deter criminal activity by depriving criminals of property used in or acquired through illegal activities.”

“We’re thrilled that Linda can finally get her life back on track,” IJ Attorney Bob Belden said. “But we still have to fight for the many others whose lives have been derailed by the FBI’s forfeiture machine.”

The FBI and the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California did not immediately return a request for comment.

Kassy Dillon is a reporter for Digital Originals. You can reach her at and follow her on Twitter at @kassydillon.


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