According to a new report from the Los Angeles Times, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Attorney's office in Los Angeles, California, were just caught misleading a judge in a search warrant that it would go on to use to seize $86 million.
The situation revolves around a Beverly Hills store called U.S. Private Vaults, which contains over 1,000 private safe-deposit boxes.
The FBI suspected that criminal activity was taking place at the store for several reasons - because authorities suspected drug dealers and purchasers were using the store as a front and because people would often arrive at the store with either rental cars or cars with out-of-state license plates.
So, the FBI applied for a search warrant and, in this search warrant, FBI agent Lynne Zellhart claimed that the FBI was only looking to obtain the safe-deposit boxes themselves, "not their contents."
United States Magistrate Judge Steve Kim, the judge who ultimately signed off on the search warrant, accordingly limited the search warrant by making it clear that the content of the boxes was not to be searched.
The FBI, though, according to the Times, had a different plan. Even though the agency told Kim that it wasn't going to search the contents, the Times reports that the FBI had intended to search the contents for many months before filing the search warrant. And, that's what the agency ended up doing.
The FBI took $86 million from the boxes in cash, gold, silver, and other luxury items.
The box holders have filed a class-action lawsuit claiming that the FBI has violated their constitutional rights. The FBI, so far, has responded by posting a sign in the store's window telling box holders that they can reclaim their property. But, the FBI didn't say that those box holders who come forward may be subject to an investigation, which is what is happening.
The FBI's reputation has already been significantly damaged in recent years, and this isn't going to help.