California’s Latest Scam Allows Cities to Steal Homes
Some call it privatized prosecutions. Others call what this city in California does a money-making scam.
Either way, one citizen stepped up to stop this Leftist abomination.
Picture this. You’re a landlord for your small home in the Coachella Valley of Southern California. A city code enforcer drives by and notices a few chickens clucking in the backyard. You receive a warning letter about the birds. Simple enough, right?
You instruct your tenant to get rid of the chickens. Matter solved. Or so you think.
That’s how the story begins for 79-year-old Ramona Morales. She never believed a few birds would be the beginning of her nightmare. But her tenants chickens escalated to a $6,000 bill. And as her attorney Jeffrey Redfern points out, “these guys are making money off her and everybody else.”
Fighting Fire with Fire
Sometimes the only way to extinguish a fire it to burn out the fuel around it. That’s exactly what Morales decided to do when she opted to sue two cities in her area profiting from these bogus lawsuits.
As the Desert Sun details:
On Tuesday, Morales filed a class-action lawsuit against Indio and Coachella, two cities that have made a practice of taking residents to criminal court for exceptionally minor crimes, then charging them thousands to pay for the cost of their own prosecution. The lawsuit is a direct response to a Desert Sun investigation, published in November, which revealed that the cities had billed residents like Morales more than $122,000 in “prosecution fees” and threatened to take their homes if they didn’t pay.
If successful, the class-action lawsuit will reverse convictions of anyone who was prosecuted by Indio and Coachella’s privatized prosecutors, the law firm Silver & Wright, and lead to the return of prosecution fees paid by those residents. The suit also might affect other Riverside County cities that also have hired Silver & Wright.
Luckily, Morales found a non-profit willing to jump into the fight.
She is represented by the Institute for Justice. The law firm is a public interest group dedicated to combating government overreach.
As the Desert Sun continues:
Redfern, an Institute attorney, said the Morales lawsuit argues that Silver & Wright had a “personal, financial stake” in every prosecution; if they got a conviction, they got paid. This profitability colored every case filed by Silver & Wright, Redfern said, making prosecutions less about fixing problem properties and more about cashing in on convictions.
“There are enough laws on the books that you can prosecute basically anyone you want to if you are motivated enough, and the housing code is really ripe for abuse,” Redfern said. “But, if you combine capacious and vague code, where almost anything can be a violation, and you let the person who is going to enforce the code make money off of it, then the potential for abuse is just tremendous.”
Policing for Profit
It’s not surprising that left-leaning California is ranked as one of the country’s worst states when it comes to cashing in on property forfeitures. According to the Institute for Justice:
California ranks 50th for federal forfeiture, with over $696 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds from 2000 to 2013.
And you can bet it’s only gotten worse with new scams targeting minor offenses. In fact, Morales’ attorneys identified 18 people in her area that were targeted by the same scam.
Basically, all the city has to do is find some minor code offense. Perhaps the grass is too tall, or there is a vehicle parked with expired tags. Maybe it’s a shed that needs repairs. Simply put, the minor infraction doesn’t matter. It’s just a ruse for the city to write a ticket and attach prosecution to it.
When the owner can’t afford the high-priced legal fees, a lien is placed on the property. Thus the beginning of the end for most property owners.
Clearly, laws regarding forfeited property are intended to battle serious crimes, not simple nuisances. For example, properties seized in drug raids are auctioned to help fund prosecuting drug dealers. However, using minor infractions such as a few chickens in the backyard extorts homeowners. And the city stalks these homeowners like a predator.
While we focus on Leftist political crimes at the major levels, understand these type of local scams happen daily all over America. But city leaders plot against their constituents to feather their nests, as their denizens suffer. Yet Democrats proclaim their allegiance to the “little man”.
I’d like to see these city leaders sued personally. And hopefully the case is big enough to gain national traction to put other predatory city leaders on notice.