Boston-area woman leading class-action lawsuit against TSA, DEA over cash seizure at airports

Banks were already closed on a Saturday in August 2019 when Rebecca Brown’s 79-year-old father entrusted her with more than $82,000 in life’s savings. Until that moment, the cash had been stashed in the nooks, crannies and walls of first the old family home southwest of Pittsburgh and then, after he sold the house in 2018, a smaller apartment in the area.

Brown, who lives in the Boston area, and her father, Terry Rolin, decided that weekend that she would use power of attorney to finally put all that cash into a joint bank account with the primary purpose of tending to Rolin’s health care and more immediate needs, like fixing his rusted-out truck and replacing his teeth.

But given the shuttered banks and the fact that Brown had to return to Boston for work that Monday, plans had to change. She did a quick check online to make sure it was legal, and then packed up the tens of thousands of dollars in cash into her purse and headed to the Pittsburgh airport early in the morning on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019.

It’s there that their plan hit a snag: The Transportation Security Administration’s screeners.

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TSA personnel alerted local law enforcement about the large quantity of cash. Brown said she was soon questioned by Pennsylvania State Troopers and the money was seized by a Drug Enforcement Administration agent known to the plaintiffs only as “Steve.” It took six months for them to get their money back, according to their attorney.

Brown sued and had her case taken up, pro bono, by the Institute for Justice.


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