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  1. #1
    Senior Member JohnB2012's Avatar
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    Jul 2005
    Raleigh, NC

    Wire-Transfer Crackdown by Arizona Is Challenged ... ref=slogin

    In a campaign to choke off smugglers’ finances, the Arizona attorney general in recent years has periodically seized money wired in large amounts from people outside Arizona, and even some money sent from other states to Mexico.

    The authorities have amassed $17 million in four years from suspect transfers, singling out those exceeding $500 and believed to be sent as payments to smugglers who have just transported people or drugs into Arizona, the busiest illegal crossing area on the border.

    But the effort has come under legal attack, first from Western Union, which handles most of the transactions, and now through a federal lawsuit filed yesterday in Phoenix by three legal immigrants and an immigrant advocacy group representing the immigrants. They say their transactions are legal and have been caught up in the campaign of the attorney general, Terry Goddard.

    “They just decided it was a lot easier to sweep everybody on in and make people prove their innocence,” Matthew J. Piers, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said at a news conference in Chicago, where the advocacy group is based. “In this country, we do it the other way around.”

    Smugglers take immigrants into Arizona, call a “sponsor” — usually a relative or friend of the person smuggled — who then wires payment for the trip across the border. Mr. Goddard said that over the last year suspect transactions into Arizona dropped sharply but increased by about the same amount in Sonora, an indication that smugglers had shifted to picking up the money there.

    He said Arizona could seize those transactions because they originated with a phone call by the smuggler in Arizona.

    Mr. Piers and the advocacy group, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said the three people filing suit were legal immigrants who had wired money for legitimate purposes but who for plausible reasons could not satisfy demands for information on the transfers.

    One plaintiff, Javier Torres of Burbank, Ill., said he had resold a car he had just bought and transferred ownership documents before law enforcement officers demanded them as proof that his wire transfer was legitimate.

    The two other defendants — a woman from North Carolina and a woman from California — had wired money to relatives in Arizona and Mexico, and said they could not meet officers’ demands to speak with the recipients of the transfers because the relatives did not have telephones and the women had lost track of them.

    Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois group, said it was investigating other cases, including some referred by Western Union.

    The company, calling Mr. Goddard’s tactics an unconstitutional overreach of his authority, won a court order in September halting the latest round of seizures. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 30.

    Western Union, the biggest wire-transfer company, sued to block warrants Mr. Goddard obtained involving transfers to the Mexican state of Sonora, which borders Arizona. Investigators say Sonora has emerged in the past year as the primary destination of the transfers.

    Mr. Goddard said in an interview that he had not yet seen the complaint that was filed yesterday, but he defended his tactics as legal and productive, saying they had disrupted smuggler networks.

    “All actions we have taken have been approved by courts from the get-go,” said Mr. Goddard, a Democrat currently seeking re-election.

    The authorities have refunded seizures in 10 percent to 15 percent of the cases after recipients spoke with law enforcement officers. Mr. Goddard said that he offered last week to check into any misguided seizures the Illinois group found but that it had not provided such information.

  2. #2
    Senior Member JohnB2012's Avatar
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    Jul 2005
    Raleigh, NC
    Immigrants sue state over blocked money transfers ... rs-ON.html

    An immigrant-rights group sued Arizona's Attorney General on Wednesday, saying the lives and property of innocent people are unfairly snared by a state program intended to combat migrant and drug smuggling by intercepting money transfers.

    The suit filed by attorneys for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights on behalf of a class of plaintiffs said the warrants authorizing the interceptions are too broad and snare innocent people in violation of constitutional protections on search and seizure. Rights for legal due process also are violated because notices outlining ways to challenge the seizures aren't being posted, according to the suit in U.S. District Court in Phoenix.

    Englewood, Colo.-based Western Union has already gone to court separately to fight aspects of the program run by the Arizona Attorney General. It recently was expanded to include transfers of $500 or more sent to specific places in the northern Mexican state of Sonora because, state officials said, smugglers had responded to seizures in Arizona by rerouting the transfers to south of the border.

    A federal judge last month rebuffed Western Union's challenge to the expanded program, but a state judge later temporarily halted the program pending an Oct. 30 hearing.

    Attorney General Terry Goddard's office oversees the 5-year-old program, which is intended to deprive smugglers of the money that is "the core motive" for their operations.

    Along with being a major location of drug smuggling, Arizona is the nation's busiest illegal crossing point for illegal immigrants coming into the United States from Mexico.

    Authorities say illegal immigrants typically won't carry large amounts of cash and frequently arrange to have relatives or friends send money to "coyotes" for payment once crossings are made.

    The lawsuit challenges approximately $12 million intercepted in 11,000 transfers during the past two years.

    Goddard's office said the seizure warrants have led to hundreds of arrests of smugglers and drug dealers and "played a role" in the forfeiture of more than $17 million in transit as well as numerous businesses.

    Coalition Executive Director Josh Hoyt acknowledged that some of the transfers are for illicit purposes. But he said the group's investigation shows the procedures also snag "little people" who mostly are just trying to send money to relatives.

    "He's taking a lot of innocent people along with the guilty," Hoyt said of Goddard.

    Coalition representatives met last week with Goddard in Phoenix but were unable to resolve their differences, Hoyt said.

    The lawsuit, which names Goddard and a top aide as defendants, asks the court to block use of the seizure warrants and order restitution for seized transfers and payment of legal fees and costs.

    Goddard said in a statement that the new legal challenge would not deter efforts to "disrupt human smuggling, secure Arizona's border and make our neighborhoods safer."

    His office's briefing paper said the procedures used to screen cases are like Customs inspections or police roadblocks to catch drunken drivers and "are national models of due process."

    "The law enforcement goal in each operation is to determine which are the subject cases as quickly as possible and send the others on their way with little disruption," according to the briefing paper.

    However, one of three plaintiffs named in the lawsuit, Illinois truck driver Javier Torres, said he lost $1,000 that he tried to send to a friend in Arizona to pay for a car that Torres said he quickly resold for profit.

    Torres, a Burbank, Ill., resident who said he has been a legal resident of the United States since 1994, said Arizona authorities declined to return the money when he couldn't provide specific documents.

    "I never had the car in my name," Torres said by telephone from the coalition's office in Chicago. "They told me when you have those documents you can call me back,' "

    The suit's other two named plaintiffs are Alma Santiago, of Charlotte, N.C., and Lia Rivadeneyra of Daly City, Calif.

    Goddard's statement noted that the lawsuit involved transfers handled by Western Union and said the lawsuit "was really about protecting corporate profits."

    Matt Piers, a Chicago attorney representing the immigrant coalition, said the group had received information from Western Union regarding the transfers and previously had accepted unrestricted grants from the Englewood, Colo.-based company but was not acting on its behalf.

    The suit said money was seized in transfers from residents of Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.


    On the Net:

    Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights:

    Arizona Attorney General's Office:

    Western Union:

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