SOUTH FAYETTE TOWNSHIP, Pa. — A local man’s life savings of more than $82,000 was seized at Pittsburgh International Airport in August, and now he and his daughter are suing.
Rebecca Brown, 54, of Lowell, Mass., said her 79-year-old retired father, Terry Rolin, of South Fayette Township, asked her to help manage the cash he and his late parents had hidden in hiding spots throughout the family home.
“I’m a 54-year-old grandmother walking through the airport going to work,” Brown told Channel 11.
She said she didn’t have time to get to a bank before leaving and made sure traveling with so much money was legal.
“It was late Saturday night after the banks closed when he gave me the money, and I had an early (Monday) morning flight home. So, I didn’t get a chance to get to a bank in Pittsburgh,” Brown told TribLIVE. “I was concerned about traveling with cash, so I checked online and found out it was legal to travel domestically with cash.
Brown said she was carrying the cash in a small, zippered bag inside a satchel when she was questioned about it by a Transportation Security Agency agent at a security checkpoint. After getting to the gate, she said she was approached by a state trooper and a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agent.
“When the DEA agent and the trooper approached me, I was embarrassed and afraid. This isn’t just my money, it’s my dad’s money. This is his life savings,” said Brown.
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The trooper and DEA agent asked Brown about the money and had her call her father, who was disoriented from being awakened. Brown was told their stories didn’t match up and they were seizing the cash.
So, the DEA agent confiscated all $82,000. Nearly five months later, no charges have been filed and the money hasn’t been returned.
The nonprofit group “Institute for Justice” filed a class-action lawsuit on the family’s behalf, calling the civil seizure unconstitutional.
The lawsuit claims TSA and DEA agents acted unlawfully when they seized the cash Brown was carrying. It goes on to allege agencies routinely seize cash from air passengers carrying anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 and asks a judge to prohibit such seizures without specific probable cause.
The DEA declined to comment on the lawsuit, but law enforcement sources told Channel 11 there is more to the story and probable cause is needed to seize the money.
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