Federal prosecutors reportedly attempting to forfeit a car dealership’s assets because the owner deposited too much money and because he supposedly deposited too little at a time. Ethnic bias possibly a motivator too:
“A civil forfeiture action claims Ella’s Discount Auto Sales doesn’t generate enough business to account for more than $1.7 million he deposited in local banks over 11 months, and that he structured deposits to keep them under $10,000 to avoid having the banks file currency transaction reports with the Department of the Treasury.
But Ella, who first started getting visits from federal agents around the time of the 9/11 attacks, says he’s done nothing wrong and that there is a more sinister motive behind the forfeiture action filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
He contends federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security don’t understand his successful business on Fourth NW and that they singled him out because he is a naturalized American citizen from Iran.
“It’s my name. My ethnicity,” the successful car dealer said in an interview. “I don’t like saying that, but what other reason can they have for trying to destroy me, my business.”
“I like being American. I’m proud to be an American, but I feel like I’m under friendly fire.” Mike Gallagher, Car dealer Reza Ella says Homeland Security targeted him over his heritage, Albuquerque Journal, 28 July 2013.
Notably, the government attempted the same thing in 2007. That attempt resulted in Mr. Ella paying the government $12,000 to go away after they brought a suit against $489,732.02 of his dealership’s assets:
“In 2007, federal prosecutors tried to seize $489,000 through a civil action that ended with Ella getting almost all his money back. The feds got to keep a grand total of $12,000, according to the settlement agreement. In the 2007 case, the government accused Ella of structuring cash withdrawals from banks to avoid federal reporting requirements.
Ella said he agreed to the negotiated settlement in the 2007 forfeiture case to get most of his money back and because he believed that would end his problems with federal law enforcement.”
Ella’s attorneys said they don’t intend to negotiate a deal this time and have asked for a jury trial. NM used car dealer fights forfeiture claim by feds, Associated Press, 28 July 2013.