The bright lights come on!
When the agents learned that these aircraft were not owned by the company, their case for the raid seemed to collapse but they continued looking for anything out of order. Now, they had better find something wrong or they would look incompetent. This is called a fishing expedition in the law and is generally prohibited.
The bottom line
The agents were acting on inaccurate information from very questionable self-serving sources. They could easily have determined ownership of aircraft with a couple of simple keystrokes on their computers. "N" numbers are easy to chase down and the real owners could have been found on any government computer and interviewed in person. Believe it or not, the agents had not checked ownership on the aircraft. They assumed that because they were being operated by the company, they were owned by the company and thus there was some incentive to cut corners (save money on maintenance). This company was in business to make money, not cut corners. They had a certified repair station in which to perform maintenance for a profit. Their customers, the owners of the aircraft among others, paid the bill for repairs. Why would they cut corners?
Anytime the federal government's justice department dispatches its agents with gas masks and machine guns to invade the home or business of a private citizen, as they did in the Gonzalez saga, we had better start asking some questions.
I doubt that the men who wrote the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution would accept uncorroborated statements of disgruntled former employees for example, as a basis for government conduct, but they did in this case. The reason for this raid should have been put to a federal judge. We should note that a federal judge in the Gonzalez case denied the Government's request for a warrant. As we all know, they crashed the house and grabbed the kid anyhow, without a warrant.
In this FBO case, additional supporting data should have been required for such a serious invasion of the business premises. The raid violated a basic principle of our society, a principle whose preservation lies at the core of ordered liberty under the rule of law. Between this case, the Gonzalez case, and others, many have commented that some aspects of federal justice are out of control.
More to the point, there was no necessity for this raid on the FBO. It seems that it was all about putting on a show for the press who were informed and showed up on the scene. Many commentators feel that certain federal agencies have found a new venue, namely, aviation accidents, to expand and enlarge their oversight responsibilities and perhaps increase their budget allocation.
Popular action against
It is a fact that search and seizure warrants are commonly used today to investigate corporate America. We might recall the raids on Archer-Daniels Midland Co. and Northrop Grumman Corporation among others. Even prestigious American Airlines is not exempt from such treatment. Their cargo facility in Miami was raided by what was described in the papers as Government gangsters, bullying and scaring everyone on the premises. Sound familiar?
The number of search warrants issued by federal magistrates is up markedly in many jurisdictions - some over fifty percent in recent years.
Although prosecutors could use subpoenas to get what they want, it can take a while. With a search and seizure warrant, they get what they want immediately.
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