Small town sends armored vehicle, 24 officers to collect debt from 75-year-old

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An armored military vehicle and 24 armed police officers: That’s what the sheriff’s department in a small Wisconsin town used to collect a civil judgement from a 75-year-old man, who has filed a $4.5 million lawsuit against the town over the incident.

Marathon County sheriff’s deputies went to Roger Hoeppner’s property in the town of Stettin to serve a writ of execution against the 75-year-old for the $86,000 he and his family owed the municipality.

The police expected to have to seize and remove tractors and wooden pallets to pay the judgment, which is why so many deputies were on hand, Sheriff’s Capt. Greg Bean told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Hoeppner is known to be argumentative, he added, but not dangerous.

“I was doing my battery of pills for myself and for my wife and I looked out the window and I saw numerous activity up there with numerous unmarked squad cars and a battery of officers and I called 911 at that time and a reporter says that they were there to serve a judgement against me,” Hoeppner explained to WSAW.

He quickly called his lawyer, Ryan Lister, who was also unaware that deputies were arriving to collect the debt. The attorney told the Journal-Sentinel that he was stopped by a roadblock that was kept up until after his client had been taken away in handcuffs.

“Rather than provide Mr. Hoeppner or his counsel notice…and attempt to collect without spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on the military-style maneuvers, the town unilaterally decided to enforce its civil judgment” with a show of force, Lister told the Journal-Sentinel.

The police said they didn’t call in the crews ‒ and the armored vehicle ‒ until after they knocked on Hoeppner’s door and no one answered, despite being able to see Hoeppner, his wife and adult son closing curtains and “scurrying” around inside, the Wausau Daily Herald reported.

“That’s not normal behavior and it causes us concern, especially when there are a lot of threatening statements leading up to this and our attempts at arbitration and mediating this out failed,” Marathon County Chief Deputy Chad Billeb, who was at the scene, said at a press conference on Monday. “We don’t want to take a chance with our officers’ safety.”

Hoeppner owns about 20 acres outside of town, where he restores antique tractors and runs a pallet repair business, according to the Journal Sentinel. In 2008, the town sued Hoeppner over claimed violations of ordinances about zoning, signs, rubbish and vehicles. The two parties settled a year later, but Stettin officials felt he reneged on the deal and filed for a motion for contempt and enforcement. In September 2010, a judge ordered Hoeppner to clean up his land. The property owner didn’t comply, and so the judge then authorized the town to seize assets, which officials did in summer of 2011, selling the tractors, pallets and other items for “pennies on the dollar,” Lister said. Hoeppner was then issued a $500-a-day fine in April 2013 for his previous non-compliance.

“This has been a long outstanding problem between the resident and the township and it’s been contentious. We’ve had deputies go to town board meetings to do security. We know we’ve had our staff involved to mediate this over a number of months trying to calm the situation and it never got any better,” Billeb said.

By October 2, that daily fine amounted to $86,000, which the town sought to collect that day. When Hoeppner failed to open the door, deputies called in the Marathon County Response Vehicle (MRAV) and began inventorying the items on the property.

That brought the 75-year-old then out of the house, but he soon got “pushy” and tried bowling past them, police said, according to the Daily Herald. That’s when a lieutenant handcuffed the property owner.

“I’ve been involved in about five standoff situations where, as soon as the MARV showed up, the person gives up,” saving the county time, money and increasing safety, Bean said to the Journal-Sentinel. “People may not always understand why, but an armored vehicle is almost a necessity now.”

The department obtained the armored ‒ but not weaponized ‒ vehicle in 2011, and it has since been deployed 53 times.

The 75-year-old and his wife have filed a claim for damages against the town in the amount of $4.5 million, according to WSAW.

“It’s a long-running, heavily litigated dispute over his use of his property,” another of Hoeppner’s lawyers (on an unrelated matter), Jeff Scott Olson, told the Journal-Sentinel. “They’re trying to collect in a very heavy-handed manner.”

Stettin officials agreed to drop $6,000 from his bill, in exchange for Hoeppner paying the bill that day without the town needing to haul away and sell the equipment from his property.

“The $86,000 figure is enough to shock most men,” the 75-year-old said. “And they wanted it now, today.”

Hoeppner estimates that his prolonged battle with the town has cost him about $200,000, a retirement fund he “worked very hard to accumulate,” he told the Journal-Sentinel. In addition, he said, the events on October 2 upset his wife so much that he had to take her to a hospital for a few hours that day.

Top 10 ways Barack Obama has muzzled American media

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After US President Barack Obama entered office in 2009 pledging transparency and open government, it was a refreshing wind of change from the locked-down Bush years. The reality, however, has fallen dramatically short of the promise.

10. White House seizes phone records of Associated Press reporters
During a two-month period in 2012, the US Justice Department seized telephone records from some 100 journalists at AP offices in New York, Washington and Connecticut without providing any explanation. The government waited until May 2013 to inform the global news agency of the unprecedented surveillance, which naturally sparked a wave of consternation and not a little apprehension throughout the media world. “There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters,” AP Chief Executive Gary Pruitt said in a letter addressed to former Attorney General Eric Holder.

AFP Photo / Jean AyissiAFP Photo / Jean Ayissi

9. Emmy-award winning reporter accuses government of bugging her laptop
In her book, “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington,” former CBS anchor Sharyl Attkisson says she was informed that one of the US government’s intelligence agencies “discovered my Skype account handle, stole the password, activated the audio, and made heavy use of it, presumably as a listening tool.” Further inspection of the laptop revealed classified US documents that were “buried deep” in her computer. The reason for the “plant,” according to her unidentified source, “was probably to accuse you of having classified documents if they ever needed to do that at some point.”

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8. News correspondent’s emails monitored
In May 2013, Fox News correspondent James Rosen was accused under the Espionage Act of possibly being a “co-conspirator” in the 2009 release of classified information on North Korea’s nuclear plans based on interviews with his Washington source. It was revealed that the US government monitored Rosen’s emails, a clandestine activity that would seem to have little in common with the spirit of a free press. The charges came at a very peculiar time. Republican Senator Marco Rubio reminded that Rosen had been aggressively reporting on the 2012 Benghazi tragedy, which saw the US ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens killed during a massive protest. “The sort of reporting by James Rosen detailed in the report is the same sort of reporting that helped Mr. Rosen aggressively pursue questions about the Administration’s handling of Benghazi.” Was not-so-subtle pressure being exerted on Rosen to back off on Benghazi?

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7. Obama’s ‘Insider Threat Program’
Following a wave of whistleblowing activities inside government agencies, an “Insider Threat Program” is being organized inside government agencies that “require all federal employees to help prevent unauthorized disclosures of information by monitoring the behavior of their colleagues,” according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In this atmosphere, instead of treating the disease of rampant intrusiveness of the sort revealed last year by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the government hopes to merely hide the symptoms of its abusive powers. Since 2009, seven government employees, including Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the media. AP’s Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee said some government employees have allegedly been told they could lose their jobs for talking to reporters, adding, “day-to-day intimidation of sources is also extremely chilling.”

6. Obama, the stage-managed president
Editors of The Associated Press condemned the White House’s latest novelty in the field of photojournalism of handing out press release-style pictures taken by his own staff photographers. These official photographs do little to capture history and are “little more than propaganda,” according to AP director of photography Santiago Lyon. Past presidential administrations were less restrictive about taking photographs, putting into doubt once again Obama’s claim that he aims for “the most transparent administration” in White House history.

US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)

5. Censorship
In July, 40 news organizations reminded President Obama in a letter that any attempt to control what the public is allowed to see and hear is a form of “censorship.” The candid communication provided a picture of the increasingly repressive atmosphere US journalists must contend with when attempting to provide coverage on stories connected to the government: “Journalists are reporting that most federal agencies prohibit their employees from communicating with the press unless the bosses have public relations staffers sitting in on the conversations. Contact is often blocked completely: Reporters seeking interviews are expected to seek permission, often providing questions in advance. Delays can stretch for days, longer than most deadlines allow. Public affairs officers might send their own written responses of slick non-answers.” Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported in September that members of the White House press-pool have complained that Obama media officials demand changes to their stories before they are disseminated to the public, allowing the White House to put a positive spin on stories.

AFP Photo / Saul LoebAFP Photo / Saul Loeb

4. Bye-bye military embeds
As the Obama administration has opened its latest military offensive, this time against the Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS] in Iraq and Syria, only a few photographs are trickling out of the war zone. Gone are the days when journalists were embedded in the military, documenting conflicts side-by-side soldiers as the action was happening. “News organizations can’t shoot photos or video of bombers as they take off – there are no embeds. In fact, the administration won’t even say what country the S. bombers fly from,” complained AP’s Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee.

Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr. speaks about the Syrian bombing campaign September 23, 2014 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Mark Wilson)Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr. speaks about the Syrian bombing campaign September 23, 2014 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Mark Wilson)

3. Guantanamo Bay information blackout
Despite early campaign promises to close down the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention center, the facility is not only still open but the Obama administration is keeping the public in the dark as the military tribunal against some 175 alleged terrorists enters its closing stages. Photo and video coverage is outright forbidden. This is strange considering that even the Nuremburg hearings against Nazi leaders – who killed far more people than Al-Qaeda – permitted the media a front-row seat at the international hearings. It is also a very unfortunate and telling footnote to the American claim that it wants to spread democracy around the world.

Detainees participate in an early morning prayer session at Camp IV at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base (Reuters / Deborah Gembara)Detainees participate in an early morning prayer session at Camp IV at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base (Reuters / Deborah Gembara)

2. Investigation against NYT’s reporter James Risen
Following the publication of James Risen’s 2006 book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration” ex-CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was hit with felony charges for allegedly revealing classified information involving Iran’s nuclear program. Department of Justice lawyer Robert A. Parker, arguing that the Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist should be forced to testify in the trial of Sterling, said there’s “no [reporter’s] privilege in the first place.” In June, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Risen, who now faces imprisonment for refusing to identify his source. “We can only hope now that the government will not seek to have him held in contempt for doing nothing more than reporting the news and keeping his promises,” his lawyer, Joel Kurtzberg, told the New York Times.

AFP Photo / Saul LoebAFP Photo / Saul Loeb

1. Hunting season for whistleblowers
The Obama administration has filed seven cases under the Espionage Act, the latest one against former NSA contractor Edward Snowden this June. Before Barack Obama was sworn into office in 2009, there had been only three cases of the government using the Espionage Act to prosecute government officials for blowing the whistle on questionable activities. “There’s no question that this has a chilling effect,” Mark Mazzetti, who covers national security issues for the New York Times, told the Washington Post. “People who have talked in the past are less willing to talk now.”

NY Times Wants IRS To Seize Even More Small Business Assets

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By Joseph R. Carducci, October 29, 2014.

This is a follow up to the story I reported on the other day, regarding how the IRS has become exceptionally abusive and unfair in their use of power. There are strong reasons why even some of the most powerful politicians in Washington these are days are finally starting to talk about eliminating this agency altogether.

IRS Now Targeting Deposits Under $10,000

Part of the problem is that they have a really nasty law on the books giving them the power to investigate and seize the assets of small businesses who make regular bank deposits (especially in cash) of UNDER $10,000. We are probably already aware of the fact that anyone who deposits $10,000 and over will be legally required to complete an IRS form declaring the money and its source, etc.. This is part of their efforts to fight against drug traffickers and money laundering and so forth.

But it would seem that now, you are caught in a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situation. As a small business, you are not likely to have cash deposits above $10k on a regular basis. Sadly, the act of simply making regular deposits (of almost any amount now), will trigger the IRS to look into things. So even if you would have gladly complied with any paperwork law (there are reasonable arguments that even extra paperwork is a privacy intrusion, but one case at a time) you are still potentially branded a criminal.

No Presumption of Innocence, More Seizures Than Ever

Worst of all, should the IRS target your small business, there is no presumption of innocence for any citizen. Nope. The IRS has different rules. This is why you often hear them say stupid things like ‘the IRS doesn’t make mistakes,’ even when every sane person knows they do…every day. You need to PROVE that you are not guilty, after they have already taken your money. Sadly, many folks end up giving up due to the sheer time and resources that are required to fight the most powerful government agency.

This crazy law has already affected more businesses than you might think, since the agency doesn’t even need any proof or even evidence. They can simply go in and seize your accounts. Instances of this type of seizure are more than five times the level they were just 10 years ago. Dairy farmers in Maryland, an army sergeant in Virginia, and a New York restaurant are just some of those who had their money stolen by the IRS.

NY Times Blames Tea Party Budget Cuts

The New York Times would love to give the IRS even more power to conduct additional asset searches and seizures. Big advocates for never holding anyone at the agency accountable for anything, either. Plus, they think the IRS should also have an inexorably increasing budget with which to conduct audits of non-criminals:

“There is a scandal going on at the Internal Revenue Service, but it has nothing to do with Lois Lerner or her missing emails…No, the real scandal is what the Republicans did to cripple the agency when virtually no one was looking. Since the broad Tea Party-driven spending cuts of 2010, the agency’s budget has been cut by 14 percent after inflation is considered, leading to sharply reduced staff, less enforcement of the new tax laws and poor taxpayer service…”

Yes, that poor, weakened agency. They should have all the power imaginable. Simply ridiculous. What do YOU think? Time to get rid of the IRS? Is this truly abuse of power, or the agency only doing their job? Should people be held accountable for this sort of thing?

IRS Seizes Life Savings for Deposits Under $10,000

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Money confiscated even though no crime committed

(NY Times) – For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.

The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.

“How can this happen?” Ms. Hinders said in a recent interview. “Who takes your money before they prove that you’ve done anything wrong with it?”

The federal government does.

Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up.

“They’re going after people who are really not criminals,” said David Smith, a former federal prosecutor who is now a forfeiture expert and lawyer in Virginia. “They’re middle-class citizens who have never had any trouble with the law.”

On Thursday, in response to questions from The New York Times, the I.R.S. announced that it would curtail the practice, focusing instead on cases where the money is believed to have been acquired illegally or seizure is deemed justified by “exceptional circumstances.”

Richard Weber, the chief of Criminal Investigation at the I.R.S., said in a written statement, “This policy update will ensure that C.I. continues to focus our limited investigative resources on identifying and investigating violations within our jurisdiction that closely align with C.I.’s mission and key priorities.” He added that making deposits under $10,000 to evade reporting requirements, called structuring, is still a crime whether the money is from legal or illegal sources. The new policy will not apply to past seizures.

The I.R.S. is one of several federal agencies that pursue such cases and then refer them to the Justice Department. The Justice Department does not track the total number of cases pursued, the amount of money seized or how many of the cases were related to other crimes, said Peter Carr, a spokesman.

But the Institute for Justice, a Washington-based public interest law firm that is seeking to reform civil forfeiture practices, analyzed structuring data from the I.R.S., which made 639 seizures in 2012, up from 114 in 2005. Only one in five was prosecuted as a criminal structuring case.

The practice has swept up dairy farmers in Maryland, an Army sergeant in Virginia saving for his children’s college education and Ms. Hinders, 67, who has borrowed money, strained her credit cards and taken out a second mortgage to keep her restaurant going.

Their money was seized under an increasingly controversial area of law known as civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement agents to take property they suspect of being tied to crime even if no criminal charges are filed. Law enforcement agencies get to keep a share of whatever is forfeited.

Critics say this incentive has led to the creation of a law enforcement dragnet, with more than 100 multiagency task forces combing through bank reports, looking for accounts to seize. Under the Bank Secrecy Act, banks and other financial institutions must report cash deposits greater than $10,000. But since many criminals are aware of that requirement, banks also are supposed to report any suspicious transactions, including deposit patterns below $10,000. Last year, banks filed more than 700,000 suspicious activity reports. Owners who are caught up in structuring cases often cannot afford to fight. The median amount seized by the I.R.S. was $34,000, according to the Institute for Justice analysis, while legal costs can easily mount to $20,000 or more.

There is nothing illegal about depositing less than $10,000cash unless it is done specifically to evade the reporting requirement. But often a mere bank statement is enough for investigators to obtain a seizure warrant. In one Long Island case, the police submitted almost a year’s worth of daily deposits by a business, ranging from $5,550 to $9,910. The officer wrote in his warrant affidavit that based on his training and experience, the pattern “is consistent with structuring.” The government seized $447,000 from the business, a cash-intensive candy and cigarette distributor that has been run by one family for 27 years.

There are often legitimate business reasons for keeping deposits below $10,000, said Larry Salzman, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice who is representing Ms. Hinders and the Long Island family pro bono. For example, he said, a grocery store owner in Fraser, Mich., had an insurance policy that covered only up to $10,000 cash. When he neared the limit, he would make a deposit.

Ms. Hinders said that she did not know about the reporting requirement and that for decades, she thought she had been doing everyone a favor.

“My mom had told me if you keep your deposits under $10,000, the bank avoids paperwork,” she said. “I didn’t actually think it had anything to do with the I.R.S.”

In May 2012, the bank branch Ms. Hinders used was acquired by Northwest Banker. JoLynn Van Steenwyk, the fraud and security manager for Northwest, said she could not discuss individual clients, but explained that the bank did not have access to past account histories after it acquired Ms. Hinders’s branch.

Banks are not permitted to advise customers that their deposit habits may be illegal or educate them about structuring unless they ask, in which case they are given a federal pamphlet, Ms. Van Steenwyk said. “We’re not allowed to tell them anything,” she said.

Still lawyers say it is not unusual for depositors to be advised by financial professionals, or even bank tellers, to keep their deposits below the reporting threshold. In the Long Island case, the company, Bi-County Distributors, had three bank accounts closed because of the paperwork burden of its frequent cash deposits, said Jeff Hirsch, the eldest of three brothers who own the company. Their accountant then recommended staying below the limit, so for more than a decade the company had been using its excess cash to pay vendors.

More than two years ago, the government seized $447,000, and the brothers have been unable to retrieve it. Mr. Salzman, who has taken over legal representation of the brothers, has argued that prosecutors violated a strict timeline laid out in the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, passed in 2000 to curb abuses. The office of the federal attorney for the Eastern District of New York said the law’s timeline did not apply in this case. Still, prosecutors asked the Hirsches’ first lawyer, Joseph Potashnik, to waive the CARFA timeline. The waiver he signed expired almost two years ago.

The federal attorney’s office said that parties often voluntarily negotiated to avoid going to court, and that Mr. Potashnik had been engaged in talks until just a few months ago. But Mr. Potashnik said he had spent that time trying, to no avail, to show that the brothers were innocent. They even paid a forensic accounting firm $25,000 to check the books.

“I don’t think they’re really interested in anything,” Mr. Potashnik said of the prosecutors. “They just want the money.”

Bi-County has survived only because longtime vendors have extended credit — one is owed almost $300,000, Mr. Hirsch said. Twice, the government has made settlement offers that would require the brothers to give up an “excessive” portion of the money, according to a new court filing.

“We’re just hanging on as a family here,” Mr. Hirsch said. “We weren’t going to take a settlement, because I was not guilty.”

Army Sgt. Jeff Cortazzo of Arlington, Va., began saving for his daughters’ college costs during the financial crisis, when many banks were failing. He stored cash first in his basement and then in a safe-deposit box. All of the money came from paychecks, he said, but he worried that when he deposited it in a bank, he would be forced to pay taxes on the money again. So he asked the bank teller what to do.

“She said: ‘Oh, that’s easy. You just have to deposit less than $10,000.’”

The government seized $66,000; settling cost Sergeant Cortazzo $21,000. As a result, the eldest of his three daughters had to delay college by a year.

“Why didn’t the teller tell me that was illegal?” he said. “I would have just plopped the whole thing in the account and been done with it.”

- See more at: http://www.teaparty.org/irs-seizes-life-savings-deposits-10000-64266/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=social#sthash.wKuobUc6.dpuf

SNL SLAMS OBAMA’S POOR RESPONSE TO EBOLA

“…this whole Ebola thing is probably one of my greatest accomplishments.”

NBC’s late night weekend comedy series “Saturday Night Live” took Obama supporters by surprise this past weekend when the show’s opening sequence delivered harsh criticism of his administration’s Ebola bumbling.

Saturday’s cold open [see below] depicted Obama attempting to deflect criticism by listing off various items from his second year term he thought were actually worse than unleashing the fast-killing Ebola virus on the American populace, which he considered “probably one of my greatest accomplishments” in comparison.

Some people want to criticize the way our administration has handled this crisis, and it’s true we made a few mistakes early on. But I assure you, that was nowhere near as bad as how we handled the ISIS situation, our varied Secret Service mishaps, or the scandals of the IRS and the NSA. And I don’t know if you guys remember, but the Obamacare website had some pretty serious problems too.

In fact if you look at all the stuff that’s happened my second term, this whole Ebola thing is probably one of my greatest accomplishments.

Obama’s new Ebola czar Ron Klain next fields questions regarding his lack of medical authority, in addition to the fact that the U.S. refuses to halt flights from Ebola-stricken regions in West Africa. The Klain character then jokes about red state voters staying home to avoid Ebola, while Latino voters have immunity to the virus and should head to the polls.

It’s certainly refreshing to see the left-leaning, Comcast Corporation-owned network issuing jabs at the president, especially considering they’re one of Obama’s largest donors, contributin
g over $300,000 to his 2012 presidential campaign.

The show’s jabs are also surprising in light of former Tonight Show host Jay Leno’s recent termination, whom it was speculated was canned for his consistent criticism of the president’s policies.

As Hotair.com points out, though the critique is light, its timing is pretty “startling” ahead of the November elections.

“This episode is their second to last before the midterms and they’re currently enjoying something of a resurgence in their ratings. That’s why it’s startling to see such an unabashed take-down of nearly all of Obama’s second term scandals now,” writes Jazz Shaw.