June 9, 2016

Will Out-of-State Residents Avoid Okla. Because of Seizure of Prepaid Cards?

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A few signs emerged this week that some out-of-state residents could suspend their travel to Oklahoma because of law enforcement agencies’ use of a device that seizes funds loaded on to prepaid debit cards.

As Oklahoma Watch first reported Tuesday, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety and other agencies have portable card readers mounted on vehicles that can confiscate or freeze suspected drug-trafficking proceeds loaded on to prepaid cards.

The Electronic Recovery and Access to Data devices are on Oklahoma Highway Patrol vehicles and also are being used by a joint law enforcement drug interdiction team under the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office.

Two people contacted Oklahoma Watch or a state senator who has pushed changes in civil asset forfeiture laws sand said they would suspend travel to the state because of concern that funds on personal or business payment cards could be mistakenly seized by officers.

In a June 9 letter to Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, Derek Goldberg, principal with Florida-based Peak Power & Mfg., Inc., said his company and its affiliated companies had banned employees from traveling to Oklahoma.

Employees of Peak Power & Mfg., which designs, builds and installs automated manufacturing equipment, often travel across the country and carry personal and business banking cards.

“We simply cannot risk seizure of our employees’ and our company’s assets based upon the whims of an honorable, dedicated, and well-intentioned Oklahoma Highway Patrol Officer,” the letter states. “We look forward to the time when the state of Oklahoma discontinues this practice that we may remove our travel ban.”

In an interview with Oklahoma Watch, Goldberg said he was unsure whether the cards carried by company workers were prepaid cards, which can have funds seized by the device, or non-prepaid cards, from which the devices cannot freeze or seize funds.

The devices are not capable of seizing funds associated with checking account debit cards or credit cards, but they can capture and store data from any card with a magnetic stripe.

Department of Public Safety officials said the department has 16 of the devices as of Wednesday. T. Jack Williams, owner of the company that manufactures the devices, ERAD Group Inc., said hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the country have the devices.

Another out-of-state resident, Laura Phares-Wilson, a Colorado alternative radio program host, also made her concerns known, calling Oklahoma Watch.

Phares-Wilson said shortly after making plans for a family trip to visit relatives in Anadarko, she read news of Oklahoma law enforcement possessing the card reader devices. Although she and her family mostly use cash to make purchases, Phares-Wilson said they also load some funds on to prepaid debit cards in case of an emergency.

Coupled with driving a car with license plates from Colorado, where marijuana is legal, Phares-Wilson said she and her husband canceled their plans out of concern that their cash and funds on their debit card could be seized.

“In a Colorado car, the chances of getting pulled over are very, very likely,” Phares-Wilson said. “Can you just imagine us being pulled over and seizing our car and all our money and stranding us 700 miles from home?

“If there’s any chance of anything like that happening, we’re just not going to go,” she said.

The Department of Public Safety and Williams, the inventor, said that law enforcement agencies will not use the device to take funds from law-abiding citizens who happen to have a single debit card, only from those who give officers probable cause to believe they are drug couriers.

“That (seizing single cards without probable cause) is not what we’re going to do at all,” said Lt. John Vincent, spokesman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. “If there are reasons that give us probable cause to believe a crime is being committed, then we’re going to check everything.”

Prepaid cards have become a major method by which drug cartels, human trafficking groups and terrorists transport illicit funds. The cards allow couriers to avoid law enforcement detection and reduce the likelihood that the funds will be seized, Williams and the Department of Public Safety said.

The main purpose of the devices are to provide law enforcement with intelligence, such as determining if a card’s magnetic stripe has been altered to put funds on it, and forensic analysis, such as looking for trends associated with card issuers or where the funds are coming from, Williams said.

“The seizure stuff is really secondary, even tertiary,” Williams said.

Williams, who also invented the first electronic gift card program while working for Blockbuster Video, said freezing or seizing funds from prepaid debit cards is not the same as freezing or seizing funds from bank or debit cards because prepaid cards come from pooled accounts held by financial companies.

“Prepaid cards are cash, they are not bank accounts,” Williams said. “Prepaid cards are held in pooled accounts not protected by the Bank Secrecy Act, so it’s cash.”

  • Bleu

    I can tell you that I will not be traveling there. What a low life way to try and collect money!
    This is just shameful.

    • jiko

      Good, stay out, heaven forbid Oklahoma would seize your drug money.

  • NorthstarMN

    Good grief, Mastercard is a partner of ERAD I’ll have to cancel my cards.
    Their partners: https://www.erad-group.com/partners

    • jiko

      Absolutely, you should do that right away….as in right now….immediately!!!

  • Russell Smith

    Oklahoma is apparently not OK.

    • jiko

      It’s not ok for drug trafficking

      • But perfectly ok for amateur trolls, I see. Itching for a bit of an Internet fight are you jiko? It’s blatantly apparent and you should be quickly ignored

  • Jack Cassidy

    Iowa here, I won’t travel through your state. You guys are crooked as hell.

    • jiko

      Good deal, keep your ass and your drug money in Iowa

  • KrSpo

    Well, looks like my motorcycle trip will get diverted through Arkansas…

    • jiko

      Awesome, stay over there with the three toothed hillbillies, you will probably fit in better anyway.

      • (((dagobarbz)))

        You’re not in the tourist industry, I’m guessing.

  • nerys

    Fact. YOU CAN seize cards and fund from ANYONE without any probable cause at all (as per the law as it is written) FACT there is nothing the victum can do about it and you ILLEGALLY shift burden of proof on the victum. FACT you can and will abuse said law. you should not have ACCESS to such authority. Period.

    • jiko

      The ” victim” you speak of…you mean the “drug trafficker”?

      • The Beth of Deth

        Maybe they mean the human traffickers.

    • The Beth of Deth

      People who tout EVERYTHING they say as factual are annoying… also a fact! Lol.

  • Orbital322

    This type of behavior on the part of law enforcement is unacceptable and should be prohibited. I had summer plans to spend some time in Oklahoma this summer but am looking into modifying those plans just on the very idea that this is how that state operates. Shame on you, Oklahoma!

    • jiko

      Good, stay out

      • Orbital322

        Will do!

  • Why is it that they always tell you “oh no, we’re not going to use this in a manner to inconvenience law abiding citizens!” And then they go on to use it against law abiding citizens?

    • jiko

      Are you really confusing “law abiding citizens” with drug traffickers? Do you need a dictionary to look up the meaning of those terms? Can you even read?

      • mlander80

        Yes, because nobody has ever abused their power.

      • I can read just fine, but it seems that we cannot say the same thing for your comprehension skills since you missed the rather obvious point that I was making. You should make sure of self before you attempt to insult others

        • jiko

          Please give some examples where law abiding citizens in Oklahoma have had their property seized? I have lived here most of my life and I know of no “law abiding” citizen who have had anything seized by the state. Since when is it ok to bash every law enforcement officer in a particular state for performing their duty?

          • I never said anything about a seizure. Since you’ve proven your comprehension to be so stunted, I will dumb it down for you: The police say that they won’t abuse their authority in using devices such as the one in this article, but later on you will hear about someone suing the police because they have done just that. I find it rather odd that you added the stipulation ” law abiding citizens in Oklahoma.” You will hardly hear of that because your “friendly local police” won’t stick it to people who live in Oklahoma because it’s too easy for them file suit. No, instead they focus on non-residents who may decide not to fight it because of the travel costs and other factors. In some cases the police are correct to do so, while in many others they are not, and Oklahoma is indeed one of the states involved. A simple Google search will bear this out. Here is something to (perhaps) enlighten you a little; an article from late last year about a prosecutor and a cop who don’t want a bill to pass that would require a conviction to make an asset forfeiture permanent… IN OKLAHOMA. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/oklahoma-civil-asset-forfeiture_us_56461dd1e4b045bf3deedb11

      • (((dagobarbz)))

        Here…read this real slow and try to comprehend it.

        ““It doesn’t require the filing of any criminal charges. It doesn’t require the evidence that a criminal conviction requires. If you have your property taken through civil asset forfeiture, you don’t even have all the protections you would have if you were actually accused of a crime.””

        Law abiding citizens can also be ripped off. Tourists can be ripped off. These are not drug dealers, traffickers or users, they’re just people with stuff the pigs want for themselves.

        Seems to me that YOU’RE the one confusing law abiding citizens with drug traffickers, just like your thieving police.

  • sherman berman

    I believe a movement should be started to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Oklahoma until this disgraceful practice is halted. I urge people everywhere to avoid the state’s products and services. Travel in and through the state is entirely too risky for decent people. Exposure to uniformed, armed, agents of the state is just foolhardy.

    • jiko

      You are right, your kind should just stay out of our state.

      • (((dagobarbz)))

        I’m sure your tourist industry appreciates that advice.
        If you have one. “Flat” isn’t really much of a draw.

  • PointOfView123

    I have a road trip coming up from Texas to Minneapolis to visit family. I can’t risk a corrupt police officer that’s been empowered by the Legislature to be nothing more than a thieving criminal.

    I just cancelled my hotel reservation for a stopping point in OKC and booked a new reservation in Ft. Smith, AR. Slightly out of the way, but well worth the piece of mind.

    • jwall1848

      Um, you know that Arkansas has about the worst civil asset forfeiture laws in the country. Worse than Oklahoma. So good luck there.

      • PointOfView123

        I’m not going to bother to get into a link war online, but an easy Google search will show articles by reputable organizations that study Civil Forfeiture, and rank the states. They consistently show OK and AR are generally equal in their disgraceful behavior, and show they equally incentivize policing for profit (100% of seized funds go to the police department).

        Not even a question of number of miles I’ll spend in each state as shortest likely route is within 1 mile of each other (TX/AR border to AR/MO border vs. TX/OK border to OK/MO border – using likely shorter state highways)

        If the difference is one state (Oklahoma) actively supports technology to make it easier for police to steal funds and one state (Arkansas) doesn’t (at least yet), and I am going to drive through one of those states – I guess I’ll travel the one that’s minimally better.

        However, thanks for your comments…

    • (((dagobarbz)))

      I hope you notified the OKC hotel as to why you cancelled.
      The tourist industry there needs to see how this impacts them.

      • PointOfView123

        I didn’t yet, but should. I realize one reservation may not be particularly impactful to a year’s worth of reservations, but one person speaking up represents likely many more who didn’t.

        It’s also unfortunate other industries will suffer. Gas and food I would have likely spent in the state. I don’t like the idea that money that pays paychecks is not going to OK but again I am well advised to not encourage a disgraceful behavior or risk a bad situation.

        I did email a state OKC Senator who is trying to reform OK’s civil forfeiture laws. I hope he uses my email as encouragement to keep up the fight.

        • (((dagobarbz)))

          Thing is, the gas jockeys, cafe owners etc. NEED TO KNOW that their woes are directly caused by their elected officials. They SHOULD care, as it’s money out of their pockets if people decide to avoid their state.

  • the Dagman

    Highway robbery. The cops are now the bandits.

  • R Daneel Olivaw

    Police state. Americans need to rise up and get rid of the criminals running our Government

  • alan_1969

    The police have already proven they will abuse the civil asset forfeiture against the law abiding, why should they be trusted not to abuse this as well?

  • The police have been stealing cash and assets from law-abiding citizens since their inception. This will be abused just like every other power law enforcement holds over the citizens they’re supposedly protecting.

  • jiko

    I live in Oklahoma, if you are not transporting drugs then you have nothing to worry about. If you are, then stay the hell out of my state.

    • NorthstarMN

      They’ll take your money too if they pull you over. I hope they do with an attitude like yours.

    • Tim Tribolt

      What about the time these highway robbers stole $50,000 from a Christian Rock band raising money for orphans in Thailand? These Criminals in Blue only gave the money back when the story blew up in their faces. http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2016/06/08/christian-musicians-rocked-oklahoma-civil-asset-forfeiture-laws

      That kind of sticks a pin in that naive balloon of your’s doesn’t it?

      • (((dagobarbz)))

        From the article:
        ““The most important thing for people to understand is that the important word is ‘civil,’ which sounds very nice, … sounds like treating people well,” England said. “It doesn’t require the filing of any criminal charges. It doesn’t require the evidence that a criminal conviction requires. If you have your property taken through civil asset forfeiture, you don’t even have all the protections you would have if you were actually accused of a crime.””

        There ya go. They can just steal with impunity, and you can’t do anything about it.

        So to all you cute little “if you did nothing wrong” sheep, suck this. You don’t have to be a criminal. All you have to have is a wad of cash or a prepaid card to be treated as a suspect. YOU DON’T HAVE TO HAVE DONE ANYTHING WRONG, which sorta shoots holes in your naive argument that only bad people are abused by LEOs.

    • TimC

      You don’t have a clue what the hell youre talking about! There have been numerous cases in Oklahoma of cash and other property seized from law-abiding citizens…..for no other reason than the cop decided to play judge, jury, and collection agent.

    • I seriously doubt that YOU own the state of Oklahoma. I certainly hope that Oklahoa Watch will see your posts and deploy the Troll – B – Gon…

    • (((dagobarbz)))

      Aww, it’s sweet you’re so gullible you believe that.

    • springman

      I have nothing to do with illicit drugs and furthermore I will avoid ‘your’ state at all cost.

  • infertilemyrtle

    Taking someone’s money should be court ordered, not based on the whims of a police officer without a completed investigation.

  • NorthstarMN

    It’s legalized highway robbery with a badge and a gun. They don’t care if one is a criminal or not. They profile you using any means possible to get you to stumble and bam, they got your money and tell you to move along, have a nice day and thank you for your money and remind you they’ll be waiting at the state border for you to return on your way back home so they can fleece you again.

  • Diatheke

    My wife and I travel to Tulsa from out of state once a year for a convention. We budget 3K for our two week stay which I typically convert into 6 x $500 debit cards. Call me paranoid but I feel safer not giving out a card linked to my bank account. If I get stopped the Oklahoma police can now take all my vacation money?

    • (((dagobarbz)))

      Yes. Yes they can, and claim they thought you came by it by illegal means. Then you’re screwed, and you’ll never get your money back.

  • ArdvarkMaster

    Cops – America’s largest gang. Now with its own color -Blue!

  • Cammie Rogers

    I have family there and I will not drive there. Last time was 5 years ago and numerous traffic stops simply because I have Colorado plates. I don’t do drugs and I am only guilty of escaping Oklahoma.

  • The Beth of Deth

    When you are trying to get control of lawlessness that comes literally from all sides, you have to be innovative. Mistakes will surely be made, but we all hope that this step puts a stop to a lot of the crime that comes through here from other states and uses Oklahoma as a hub for human trafficking, terrorism, drugs etc. If you aren’t doing bad things you will be fine.

    • TimC

      Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

    • (((dagobarbz)))

      Recent history has shown that cops are extremely happy to relieve innocent motorists of their money and fail to return it to innocent people.

      So there’s that. ‘If you aren’t doing bad things you will be fine” is simply not true and never has been.

      • The Beth of Deth

        I said that mistakes would be made, but it should be applauded that they are using this as a tool to track down thr bigger fish and hopefully stop this prolific problem. Do the monies on your cards lead to drug cartel or something more benign like your job or bank acct? NORMAL PERSON(S) should be FINE. Spreading hate towards the same people who would run into a burning building, or take a bullet for you wont help. I know there Will always be exceptions but j/s.

        • springman

          The problem is that NORMAL PERSON(S) are not fine and their property and cash is not returned without an expensive legal battle. Wake Up.

    • springman

      If only that was true, cops in many area are using these obscene laws to steal money and property from people without due process. This is the USA not the Soviet Union and the if you have nothing to hide argument does not excuse such activity. I will drive around any area that I know of where police are heavy handed, period, and OK will not be seeing my $ for so much as a Snickers bar.

  • TimC

    Bootlicker! Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

  • TimC

    I’m sorry folks……. don’t pay any attention to Jiko, he is obviously an in training, deputy reserve (read: broom pusher) officer from Valley Brook, Oklahoma

    • jiko

      LOL, no I do not work for Valley Brook, but I used to work down the street from there. This issue is a nonissue, do you really think Oklahoma is the first to have these machines? Oklahoma is usually the last to get new technology. If you get pulled over and have enough illegal drugs in your possession to constitute trafficking or distribution then any cash found on your person or in your vehicle will be seized. That is just not an Oklahoma law, that is the same no matter where you go. Drug dealers know this, that is why they started using prepaid debit cards, because before, the law could not immediately seize those funds like cash. If you are not trafficking drugs through Oklahoma, then you have nothing to worry about. The police are not the enemy and demonizing the police for drug interdiction is just stupid and just what the criminals want. This is the problem with our society, everyone is quick to blame the police or the teacher when they are their child fails, take some personal responsibility.

  • TimC

    For those just beginning to read these posts, let me apologize in advance, for posts made by one our state’s “finest” Junior, (in-training), reserve deputy jail attendants. His name is jiko, and he is an embarrassment to our state….as is law enforcement’s use of unconstitutional methods to steal your hard earned money. The lesson here should be “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”

  • (((dagobarbz)))

    Many people use those cards to avoid carrying cash on trips. Maybe there needs to be some sort of cloud-based card that puts funds out of the greedy paws of LEO?

    I am not comfortable with wads of cash. Now the cards are threatened with legal theft by police.

    “an honorable, dedicated, and well-intentioned Oklahoma Highway Patrol Officer” wouldn’t be stealing from travelers. Oklahoma, this is NOT OK!

  • (((dagobarbz)))

    Yeah. I’d believe Pat Robertson before I believe this statement. And I don’t believe him at all…

  • (((dagobarbz)))

    Our kind is people driving through the state with assets that can be seized.
    People on vacation. People coming to buy something. People minding their own business and living a crime-free life.

    Apparently Jiko is against asset forfeiture and is advising us to go around OK so the cops can’t steal our stuff.

  • Survivor3306

    Missing in these articles is their power to steal your car too. Man, why not? There is absolutely no downside for them. They say they smell pot and take your car. Who is to say after the fact what they smelled? As we have seen, even those with documented abuses ((the DA who used these proceeds to pay off his student loans) suffer no penalty. With all the money going back to the local gang who stole it, it would be crazy to go to Oklahoma.

    I say that with sadness as both of parents grew up there and graduated from OU. Even though I still have family there, I will not be going home again. They have made the state like Iran.

    • Sadly, though, these issues exist cross America. Every state most likely has asset forfeiture laws and that company said dozens of states already have these devices, too. The system is rigged against us and there are few safe havens.

      Personally, I no longer choose to travel or drive nor do I have any credit or debit cards and not even a bank account. I use PayPal, but as soon as the money comes in it goes out so they most they can get is the last amount I earned.

      I rarely leave the property because even being a passenger in a car is no longer safe. Did you know during traffic stops every person in a car can be asked for ID?

      So my solution is to live in the middle of nowhere and hope they are too busy everywhere else to go kicking in doors where I am. I moved as far from a big city as I could get where there is the least law enforcement possible.

      My recommendation: if you live in a big city MOVE NOW. And learn to grow food.

  • bri

    In the first 45 minutes of traveling north into Oklahoma there are no less then 6 speed traps. Calera at the stop light, Caddo under the bridge, CANEY!! just over the hill, Tuska in the out of business gas station, Atoka just south of town, Stringtown at the bottom of the hill. WIth cops bent on being lazy and not busting crime, they have become complacent with making a fast buck. No way can anyone fully trust these guys who have given up on being good stewards of protecting the citizen. Go around Oklahoma or at the very least Fill the tank on the boarder and drive Interstate 35 and don’t stop to spend tax money in the state.

  • Lex

    I’m retired LE and you’re f’n right I’m going to avoid it. This is the very thing that makes people hate, and kill cops.

  • NCOriolesFan

    With this tactic is it any wonder that citizens have no more respect for cops. Why should we. Cops have no respect for the Constitution. They instead rely on uneducated, liberal legislative lame brains for their legal authority.