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Drug War: Land Forfeiture Gang Strikes Musical Festival Property

Witnesses estimate that as many as 200 law enforcement officers took part in the assault on Camp Zoe. Given the size of that mobilization, some would expect that the police were dealing with a heavily armed gang that posed an imminent threat to public safety. Yet no criminal activity was found during the raid, and not a single person was led away in handcuffs. This should come as a surprise only to those who persist in believing that "law enforcement" is connected in some way to the protection of life, liberty, and property. Those who invaded Camp Zoe didn't find criminal activity because they weren't looking for any. They weren't there to arrest criminals; they were preparing to steal the property in the name of "civil asset forfeiture." "From what I saw, it looked like the people from the IRS were in charge initially," Mike Johnston relates. "The original search warrant was for business records, and I saw the IRS personnel hauling off boxes full of papers, computer drives, and other materials of that kind. Apparently they didn't find what they were looking for right away, so the DEA guys were next in line." Camp Zoe was placed under lock-down while the raiders rummaged through every corner of the campground, intimidating staff and visitors and seizing personal items (including cash). As this was going on another federal contingent was dispatched to clean out the personal and business accounts of Jimmy Tebeau, the musician and entrepreneur who owns and operates the campground. The Feds "just siphoned away all of his money, and then filed a civil asset forfeiture lawsuit seeking to seize his property," protests attorney Dan Viets, who has volunteered to represent Tebeau. "This would mean that he wouldn't have the money needed to fight the seizure in court." Camp Zoe was opened in 2004 by Tebeau, who plays bass in The Schwag, a hugely popular Grateful Dead tribute band. Since coming together in 1992, The Schwag has developed a large regional following, playing an average of roughly 140 concerts a year in addition to the "Schwagstock" festival performances. By some accounts, the 330-acre Camp Zoe is Shannon County's largest employer, and Tebeau's entrepreneurial accomplishments were recognized in a resolution enacted by the Missouri legislature in July 2005. Tebeau himself is not accused of a crime. Yet Camp Zoe has been seized and Tebeau's personal financial assets have been confiscated by a motley assortment of "law enforcement" groups. Under the Orwellian standards governing federal "civil asset forfeiture," Tebeau's property has already been found "guilty" of involvement in a crime. The agencies that seized it will be permitted to keep and divide it among themselves unless Tebeau can prove a negative – namely, that he did not knowingly permit the sale and use of proscribed substances by others. Missouri state law dictates that forfeiture proceeds be given to the School Building Revolving Fund, which is administered by the state's Department of Revenue and subject to official audits. However, this isn't the case when the assets are seized as part of a joint (or "hybrid") operation with the Feds. The Justice Department's manual on asset forfeiture describes this as "equitable sharing" of revenue proceeds, and explains that it is intended "to increase or supplement the resources of the receiving state or local law enforcement agency" and can be used by the recipient "for any permissible purpose as long as shared funds increase the entire law enforcement budget." This helps explain why practically every federal agency represented by an acronym – as well as every local police agency – joined the Gadarene rush to invade and occupy Camp Zoe.

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