Image source: Institute for Justice
SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County district attorney’s office is refusing to give a family back their life savings of more than $100,000, even though it has dropped a civil forfeiture case against them.
The DA dropped the case against James and Annette Slatic and their two daughters this month, more than a year after San Diego police and agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency raided the Slatics’ business — Med-West Distribution – and seized everything, although no one was charged. Med-West, a medical marijuana business, paid federal and state taxes and was licensed by San Diego County to distribute marijuana and cannabis products, which is legal in California. The company even had a website.
On March 13, the DA announced it was dropping a civil forfeiture case but then, a day later, claimed the seized money was the result of money laundering.
The Institute for Justice is representing the family and had filed two dismissal motions – one to get the money returned and the other to have the civil forfeiture case dropped.
“This money remains in the District Attorney’s bank account in open violation of California law,” Wesley Hottot, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, said. “Faced with having to answer for this unlawful seizure in court, the DA has invented an entirely new theory for why it seized the money in the first place. The story keeps changing to avoid admitting the obvious: that this is an abuse of power to take more than $100,000 from the family of an innocent small business owner.”
Police raided the business after one police officer alleged it was participating in unlawful chemical extraction. Apparently, the DA believes that allegation was false or could not be proven.
“In the 13 months since the seizure, no one associated with Med-West has been charged with unlawful extraction (or any other crime), the police appear not to have conducted any additional investigations, and no criminal allegations of any kind have been made against James’ family,” the Institute for Justice said in a news release.
Following last year’s seizure, James Slatic had to close his business and lay off 35 employees.
“We feel newly violated,” James Slatic said. “These legal tactics are having a real and devastating effect on my family. First, we lost our money for more than a year, even though no one did anything wrong. Now the government won’t give the money back, even though there is no basis for keeping it.”
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