Castigating the Department of Justice for its self-interested approach to asset seizures under the civil forfeiture statutes, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a ruling that had upheld the government’s seizure of $109,000 in the case of a fugitive and accused child abuser who founded an orphanage in Guatemala.

Granting an appeal by the Asociacion Amigos De Los Ninos Hogar Mi Casa, the non-profit corporation that runs the orphanage, the three-judge 2nd Circuit panel found that Eastern District of New York Judge Arthur D. Spatt had erred in concluding that the group was the alter ego of founder John Hugh Wetterer, and in finding jurisdiction in the Eastern District over one of the seized bank accounts.

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