Couple files forfeiture lawsuit against sheriff - WNEM TV 5

Couple files forfeiture lawsuit against sheriff

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SHIAWASSEE COUNTY, MI (WNEM) -

Two Shiawassee County residents are suing Saginaw County Sheriff Bill Federspiel and his department for $1 million.

The plaintiffs, Gerald Ostipow and Royetta Ostipow, claim the Saginaw County Sheriff’s Office seized thousands of dollars of personal property from them and illegally sold the items.

The lawsuit, which was filed on Aug. 24, claims the items were seized from their two Shiawassee County homes with a search warrant in 2008.

The target of the search warrant was the plaintiffs’ son, Steven Ostipow. The plaintiffs were never criminally charged or convicted of a crime in relation to the search, the lawsuit said.

After eight years of litigation, the 10th Circuit Court deemed most of the property that was seized was non-forfeitable since it was not the result of illegal activity by the plaintiffs, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs claim it was revealed the sheriff’s office sold the property and spent the proceeds on the sheriff’s operating budget. This was done before a judge determined the property was forfeitable, the lawsuit claims.

"The problem with that is the sheriff sold property that did not belong to him. He did not have a right to sell that," said Phil Ellison, plaintiff's attorney.

He said Federspiel sold a home that belongs to the plaintiffs.

The sheriff seized the property after arresting the couple's son for growing marijuana on a separate property the Ostipows' owned. While their son was found guilty and sent to jail, a judge ruled the Ostipows were innocent and should have their property returned.

Federspiel said he has not read the lawsuit and doesn't believe he had much to do with the forfeiture.

"That particular case originated under my predecessor Sheriff Brown. So I have a lot of reading to do as to how that all went down before I took office before I can comment on it," Federspiel said.

Ellison said this would not have been an issue if the plaintiffs could get their stuff back, but as the title for their car shows, it was sold and signed by Federspiel without the final order of a judge.

"He did not have that order and now that the order is in place, he can't fulfill his obligation which is giving the property back because he sold it. And not only did he sell it, he spent all the proceeds from the sale of those items," Ellison said.

During his reelection campaign in 2016, Federspiel said he was saving taxpayers money by funding his agency with proceeds from civil asset forfeitures.

The plaintiffs seek to recoup the losses of their property, as well as compensation for all damages including impairment of reputation and personal humiliation. They are seeking $1 million.

Some of the items that were seized include tools, a restored 1965 Chevrolet Nova classic car and its vehicle trailer, and hunting rifles, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs claim they filed a FOIA request for a list of items obtained during the search, but were ignored. They claim the sheriff’s office did not properly inventory the items.

Read the full lawsuit here.

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