A review of court records reveals deputies in Oklahoma’s Canadian County are disproportionately seizing money under forfeiture laws from Asian Americans and other people of color, reports NBC News.
As AsAmNews reported in July, deputies pulled over Thai Nang in July on a traffic stop and seized $140,000 in cash from him he had planned to use to buy farmland. The man who had agreed to sell his land to Nang and his business partner Weichuan Liu confirmed the three had agreed to the deal.
However, sheriff deputies accused Nang of planning to use the money in a drug deal and confiscated the cash from him.
NBC reports that so far this year in Canadian County, local law enforcement agencies in Canadian County have seized $1.3 million from people driving through the County. Out of the 31 cash seizures, 23% were Asian Americans, 19% were Black drivers, 16% were Hispanics.
Only 26% were White while the county’s population is 75% White.
Oklahoma Watch found that between 2010 and 2015, 60% of the cash seizures involved minorities.
“Racism and implicit bias have a greater impact where discretion is allowed, and police enjoy a significant amount of discretion over civil asset forfeitures,” said Megan Lambert of ACLU Oklahoma. “The lack of accountability or transparency and the perverse financial incentives of civil asset forfeiture make the process ripe for abuse and bias.”
The Institute for Justice told Reason that Oklahoman’s loose forfeiture laws are ripe for abuse.
“Canadian County, Oklahoma is a highway interdiction hotspot and this latest attempt to forfeit money belonging to out-of-state business owners appears to illustrate how easily Oklahoma’s forfeiture laws can be abused,” Institute for Justice senior attorney Dan Alban says. “In addition, there is a history of racial disparity in seizures and forfeitures in Canadian County, as well as several other populous counties in Oklahoma, and this just appears to be the latest example.”
Nang remains confused about what happened to him and still has not gotten his money back. In fact, he says deputies only admit to taking $130,000 and that $10,000 of his money remains unaccounted for.
The Canadian County Sheriff’s Department has not commented on the case.
“We didn’t understand why he pulled us over,” said Thai, 51, a Vietnamese immigrant to NBC News. “I was driving under the speed limit.”
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