California Loots Safe-Deposit Boxes for State Spending Spree

To finance mushrooming government spending, California is seizing as “abandoned” property the contents of bank safe-deposit boxes held by customers with currently active bank accounts.

The state seized $80,000 worth of Carla Ruff’s jewelry and sold it on eBay for a fraction of its value. It also seized and shredded the deed to her house and her birth certificate. She discovered this only years later, since the state sent her no notice at the time it seized her property, even though it had her documents and could easily have contacted her.

The state did this even though Ruff’s possessions were being held in the very San Francisco bank in which she had an active bank account, simply because she had not accessed the safe-deposit box itself for three years. Never mind that the whole purpose of a safe-deposit box is for long-term storage of possessions you may not need for years.

An unpublished federal appeals court decision has said that California’s seizures of “abandoned” property violate the Constitution, but California has yet to fix the state laws under which the seizures are occurring.