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.
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 Indiana.
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 coins.
In the suit filed in Idaho, the various plaintiffs say the federal government has no right to continue holding onto their coins any longer.
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.