An Alabama business owner is still waiting for police to return computers and other items seized from his store seven years ago — even though the charges against him were dismissed.
Nearly two dozen Homewood police officers raided Frank Ranelli’s computer repair shop in June 2010 after an informant said he’d been buying stolen electronics, reported AL.com.
Ranelli and two employees of FAR Computers were arrested, and the shop owner was charged with one count of receiving stolen goods.
Police confiscated more than 130 computers, most of which belonged to customers waiting for repairs, along with the shop’s business service and paper records.
The charge against Ranelli was dismissed after showing police he’d followed proper protocol when buying a laptop police believed was stolen — but he never got any of the seized property back.
“Here I was, a man, owned this business, been coming to work every day like a good old guy for 23 years, and I show up at work that morning – I was in here doing my books from the day before – and the police just f*cked my life,” Ranelli told the website.
Ranelli has been engaged in a lengthy legal battle to get back his property ever since, although police said they returned 14 of the computers to their original owners by 2012.
Police also told the website that the department’s lawyers had demanded Ranelli collect his seized property in July 2013, but the shop owner said that was in response to a lawsuit he filed four months earlier asking for damages to make up for the loss in value of the computers.
That suit still hasn’t been resolved.
Alabama law enforcement agencies seized more than $2.2 million worth of assets in federal criminal cases, according to an annual report to Congress.
That’s down from $4.9 million in 2014, which reflects a nationwide trend as public outcry has grown over civil forfeiture.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo Tuesday directing a deputy to ensure no abuses of a federal policy he reinstated in July to help state and local law enforcement to seize property from suspects.
Alabama’s laws offer few protections from forfeiture, and the state earned a D-minus grade from the nonprofit Institute for Justice for its civil forfeiture laws.