Pre-Crime, Asset Forfeiture, & Protection

January 18, 2016

By: Bobby Casey, Managing Director GWP

Asset ProtectionOne of the character traits of human beings that has kept the species alive is skepticism: questioning the merits or safety of a given thing. Man sees a quiet field… but it’s TOO quiet and questions whether a predator is lying in wait. Obviously being too cynical leaves little room for any human connection. Sure you’re “safe”, but you’re also totally alone. So we find that balance.

Where things get a little dicey is in industries where people stand to profit over fixing the problems of others. When a business relies on people being in trouble, what incentive is there to fix the problem entirely? Some say it’s the reputation of being a good and honest service provider that makes them marketable to others who find themselves in a similar predicament. My car breaks down. The mechanic is very helpful, honest, and reasonable. The hope is that I tell others of my good experience with him and he gets more business.

While that is true and certainly a BETTER way to run a business, let’s not be naïve and rule out the shadier elements in every industry. There are doctors that keep us just well enough to have return customers. There are dentists who have no interest in us being cavity free. There are lawyers that want us to be in a perpetual fight. There are mechanics who upsell on services that aren’t necessary.  And there are charities even, who put more into promoting their symbols and events than actually solving the problems they claim to be about.  Not ALL. In fact, not even most. But enough of them are out there to where the consumers need to make more of an effort not to get worked over.

That’s just in the private sector! Now shift your gaze to the public one. There is nothing politically beneficial to people being independent. There is political triumph in keeping people in dependence. There’s no profit to the state in having a liquor tax and a sober population. There’s no profit in having a tobacco tax and no smokers. These taxes aren’t there to incentivize us to quit our vices. They are there to profit off our habits. Likewise, there are a good number of government employees that stand to lose a LOT if the drug war were to just end.

Prosecutors and district attorneys, police officers, sheriffs, task forces, the entire DEA, just to name a few, stand to lose considerably just through the legalization of drugs. They perpetuate this by making it violent when it need not be, just to sell the threat to the general public. But they aren’t “in it to win it”. They don’t want the drug problem to go anywhere, in fact. They want their heroic place in the community, they want the glory of the job, they want the money and the fancy Pentagon resources, they want the leverage and the power that go with it. Unfortunately, their livelihood isn’t like the private sector where good and honest treatment leads to more business and a good reputation.

They are providing a service despite the low demand for it. And entailed in that “service” of being a drug warrior is civil asset forfeiture. Can we shake this off entirely? Most certainly NOT. This is the government we are talking about here. They write their own rules and deliberately keep it vague to offer the maximum amount of latitude to its agents.

Just to give you an idea of how far this is going – because let’s face it, life if stranger than fiction these days – behold the pre-crime software in California being launched called “Beware”. Based on your profile, your history, and your social media posts, this software seeks to predict what level threat you pose to society! No idea if this is going to pass for probable cause, but one thing is for sure: it cannot assess intent. But maybe we are getting to a place where intent only matters when you’re running for office.

If that isn’t freaky enough, there is an app being released in China that shows how far pre-crime technology can go. You are rated between 350 and 950 on what “kind” of citizen you are. This is linked to their national ID card (c.f. Real ID), which affects your credit score and ability to borrow money.

Are you a good citizen who regurgitates the party line? Do you report on your friends? Or do you speak out against your government? Do you question their purpose or intentions? Maybe you’re a model citizen, but your friends aren’t? That can adversely affect your score as well.

The higher the score, the greater the benefits. If you have your eye on that Singapore travel permit, perhaps it might be worth turning in a few neighbors to the state police??

This is the reality we live in. You may not think you have anything to hide, but you still close the door to the public bathroom before taking care of business. It’s not a crime to go to the bathroom, but that doesn’t automatically make it suitable for public viewing either. It’s not about you knowing you and your property are innocent. It’s about protecting it from people hell-bent on proving you’re all guilty. Plenty of people have their assets seized and are never charged with a crime themselves.

The question is HOW can you protect yourself? First, it is important to understand, there is no silver bullet. There is no: if you just do X, then you’re set. That’s not how any of this works. Think of our solutions as sound precautions that offer another layer of protection, but not a guarantee. You wear a seatbelt in the car. It could save your life, but you might still be pretty banged up if the accident were bad enough. That isn’t a case against seatbelts though, is it?

Second, the overall objective involves you distancing yourself from your assets. Putting your name and social security number on your big ticket items such as liquid cash, house, and car is basically low hanging fruit for litigious and government types.

If a cop pulls you over and demands your car, the car is gone. If he does a search for Jane Doe, social security number 123-45-6789, what else will he find? Your other car? Your house? Your boat? Your summer home or log cabin? Your business? Your investments? Your bank account(s)? Just like the car accident and seatbelt example, there will be damage. How much, remains to be seen.

By diversifying your holdings in various corporate structures, trusts, and offshore accounts, a few things become true:

  1. Your things are no longer your things. You might control them, but that’s not the same as owning them. The owner is your trustee or corporation. Regardless of your personal opinions toward J.D. Rockefeller, his words are no less true: Own nothing, control everything.
  2. You are distancing yourself from your assets. You might be asking: why have something if you have to hide it away? Valid question; but that’s not what’s happening here. You’re simply putting your eggs in an array of baskets, so if the wolf comes and eats from one basket, you still have the others. You always have access to these assets, and you always maintain control.
  3. Everything relies on what is recorded on paper. And what’s on paper is who owns the property. If you diversify who holds each of your assets, then that limits which nest of eggs gets consumed by the wolf. They look under your name, and find nothing. They look under the company name for your car, that’s all they find is the car, nothing else.
  4. These options are like insurance policies. Insurance never claims to prevent damage. It’s there to mitigate the losses in the event of an unfortunate tragedy.

There are a variety of places to store wealth depending on your goals and intentions with those assets. A brokerage or a bank account? A trust or a corporate structure or both? Offshore or domestic? Like I said, there is no silver bullet. Nor is there a cookie cutter solution or strategy for everyone to follow. The government doesn’t make anything easy, but there is the occasional escape hatch.

It absolutely breaks my heart to see folks have their assets seized by the government. I don’t care if it’s from being pulled over and having your stuff suspected of some petty crime, or the IRS expropriating your funds directly from your account, or the state government taking everything for their taxes. It’s a tragedy no matter what. It’s worth it. In this climate, no one can afford not to do this. Let’s talk. Click here to make an appointment.

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