Government Is Sued Over Seizure of Liberty
GOLDSTEIN, Staff Reporter of the Sun
20, 2008 http://www.nysun.com/national/government-is-sued-over-seizure-of-liberty-dollars/80368/
The federal government's attempt to stop a
group of gold-standard activists from minting an alternative to the
greenback is about to face its first legal test.
Click to enlarge
United States Mint showcases the new Presidential series $1 coins,
featuring the Statue of Liberty on the reverse, on January 24, 2007
at Chicago, Illinois.
A dozen people around the country filed suit in U.S. District
Court in Idaho this week demanding the return of all the copper,
silver, gold, and platinum coins — more than seven tons of metal in
all — that the FBI and Secret Service seized in November
during raids of a mint in Idaho and a strip mall storefront in
The Justice Department had decided that the
coins, many of which bear the familiar symbol of Lady Liberty and
the phrase "TRUST IN GOD," were being illegally marketed as
government-sanctioned currency, according to the sworn affidavit of
an FBI agent.
The creator of the coins, Bernard von NotHaus, who lives in
Miami, claims that the federal government is trying to shut down
production of his liberty dollars, as the coins are called, because
of the competition they pose to the greenback. In recent years, his
precious metal coins have outperformed the dollar, whose value has
plunged in relation to gold.
The raids in November were the result of a two-year undercover
investigation of Mr. Von NotHaus and how he sold liberty dollars.
The Justice Department has not followed up with any criminal charges
against Mr. Von NotHaus or the regional distributors of his
In the suit filed in Idaho, the various plaintiffs say the
federal government has no right to continue holding onto their coins
While it is common for agents to warehouse property seized during
criminal investigations, such as firearms or surveillance equipment,
the plaintiffs say coins of precious metal should be off-limits.
The coins "do not constitute contraband or other property subject
to seizure," the legal papers state, adding that the seizures
violated the Fourth Amendment rights of the plaintiffs.
For the most part, the plaintiffs had possessed bearer
certificates for the silver liberty dollars that were being
warehoused in Couer d'Alene, Idaho, at a mint. The mint, Sunshine
Minting, is one of the sites that federal agents raided.
In an unusual request, the plaintiffs ask for an order, at the
very least, forbidding federal agents from touching or moving the
coins so that they are not dirtied in any way.
"Mishandling numismatic material can negatively impact value,"
the legal papers say.
A spokesman for the Justice Department, Charles Miller, said that
the agency had not yet seen the legal papers and could not
E-mail messages circulating among Liberty Dollar enthusiasts have
expressed fears that the federal government intends to publicly
auction off the coins. There has been no public announcement
indicating that to be the case. The U.S. attorney's office in
Asheville, N.C., which led the investigation that prompted the raids
last November, did not return several calls for comment over the
last few weeks.
Mr. Von NotHaus markets his coins via the Internet as an
inflation-proof currency and claims that between 100,000 and 250,000
Americans own them. They have attracted the interest of coin
enthusiasts, as well as critics of the Federal Reserve.
A 1999 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center said that many
of the stores that accepted liberty dollars "are run by men and
women connected to the radical right." The coins have caught on
particularly well in Asheville, N.C., and Austin, Texas, and are accepted by some
More than 50,000 of the coins seized last year bear the likeness
of Rep. Ron Paul, whose monetary policies Mr. Von NotHaus
"About a quarter of a million people holding liberty dollars are
almost up-in arms — not up in arms yet, but almost — about having
their property seized, and rightly so," Mr. Von NotHaus told The New
York Sun yesterday.