Want to earn some extra cash?
It’s easy…just participate in one of the many “paid informant” programs run by various US government agencies.
Think your neighbor…or that brother-in-law you don’t like—is a tax cheat? Then download IRS Form 211 to claim your reward—at least 15% of the “additional taxes, penalties, and fines collected as a result of the informant’s information.”
Not satisfied with 15%? The IRS will pay you up to 30% of the taxes, penalties, and interest collected in cases where $2 million or more is at stake. The Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) also pays rewards of up to 30% to whistleblowers who provide original information leading to prosecutions for violations of securities or commodities laws.
But perhaps the easiest way to earn money as a snitch is to accuse someone of hoarding cash. If information you provide to the Drug Enforcement Administration or other government agency leads to the forfeiture of cash or other property, you’re eligible for a commission of up to 25% of the amount recovered.
For instance, we recently learned that the FBI Charlotte (North Carolina) Field Office had issued a press release reminding concerned citizens that if they provide a tip on where “drug cash” is being stored or transported, they could receive up to 25% of the seized money.
While the press release didn’t go into detail about what “drug cash” is, we know from experience what it means. In order for what the FBI refers to as drug cash to be seized from its owner, all that’s required is for the cash to be contaminated with narcotics residues. And at least 85% of circulating cash is contaminated in this manner. Chances are that if you were to pull out your wallet, most of the bills in it have some trace of drug residues on them. It’s thought that the cash picks up drug residues by being put in counting machines with tainted bills.
If law enforcement wants to seize your cash, they’ll probably use a drug-sniffing dog to confirm the presence of narcotics residues on it. In 2013, the Supreme Court officially affirmed the practice. It declared that “evidence of a dog’s satisfactory performance in a certification or training program can itself provide sufficient reason to trust his alert.”
And while the most notorious cash seizures we’ve written about occur in airports or during vehicle highway stops, there’s nothing stopping someone you thought was your best friend from calling the FBI’s tip line and telling them they think you’re storing a large quantity of “drug cash” in your home.
And it’s not only Charlotte…just about every city in the United States has a “Crimestoppers” number you can call anonymously to report your suspicions that your friends, neighbors, or family members are doing something illegal.
While we don’t condone criminal activity, in real life, many of the cash seizures we’re aware of have no connection whatsoever to any crime. The vast majority of them occur under America’s notorious civil forfeiture laws, which we’ve referred to as “the beast that won’t die.” We’ve also warned that cash is especially vulnerable to this despicable legal process.
In civil forfeiture cases, police don’t need to convict you of a crime or even accuse you of one in order to snatch your property. They merely need to allege that your property is somehow involved in or facilitating a crime.
Indeed, numerous studies have shown that in the vast majority of civil forfeitures, the owner of the seized property is never accused of any crime, or that charges are dropped. But the cops keep the property anyway, thanks to a 1984 law championed by then Senator Joe Biden that allows state, local, and federal agencies to keep most or all the property they confiscate.
That’s led to a practice critics call “policing for profit,” in which police agencies become addicted to civil forfeitures. In some jurisdictions, 40% of police revenue comes from forfeiture.
Welcome to America, where your money is safe only until someone tells police you’re hoarding cash and receives a generous commission if the resulting search leads to its confiscation. We can’t think of a better reason to move some of yours offshore, away from the rapacious grasp of local, state, and federal police agencies.