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Family Files Lawsuit After Feds Seize Life Savings

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Zazai familyby Rek LeConte, Institute for Justice

An immigrant family working hard and sacrificing for thirteen years to help relatives and to buy a dream vacation home in their native country is something that should be celebrated. But for Rustem Kazazi, it led to a terrifying run-in with hostile agents of the US government. And once again, an American family finds itself in a civil forfeiture battle with law enforcement over whether people have the right to travel with cash.

This version of an increasingly familiar nightmare began when Rustem, a 64-year-old former police officer from Albania who now lives in suburban Cleveland, was traveling back to Albania to fix up a family home and potentially buy a home on the coast.  He and his wife, Lejla, have long dreamed of a vacation home for all their family to visit and enjoy once they retire. Rustem also has extended family in Albania who are struggling financially, and he wanted to help them.

At the airport in Cleveland, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) promptly whisked him into a small interrogation room, stripped him naked for a full-body search, interrogated him without a translator, and then seized his family’s life savings without charging anyone with a crime. So now Rustem and his family are teaming up with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to fight back.

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© 2018 Institute for Justice

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