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Thursday, December 30, 2010

More than 100 file extortion claims against Metro Gang Strike Force

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Anonymous Pioneer Press said...

By Mara H. Gottfried
mgottfried@pioneerpress.com
Updated: 12/29/2010 01:16:37 PM CST


More than 100 people have filed claims in a $3 million settlement of a federal lawsuit involving the Metro Gang Strike Force, an attorney said today.

Thursday is the deadline for claims, said Randy Hopper, who represents the plaintiffs.

Zelaido Rivera Garcia, who sued on behalf of the class, claimed he went to the Minneapolis impound lot in 2008 to pick up his car and encountered Metro Gang Strike Force officers. Officers took his wallet and, when they returned it, $100 was missing.

That $100, and the ordeals of others whose money was seized by strike force officers, mushroomed to a $3 million settlement of a federal lawsuit announced in August.

The lawsuit claimed that strike force members "engaged in a pattern and practice of using their apparent authority as police officers to extort cash and property ... particularly from those concerned about their immigration status who would naturally perceive that they had no ability to assert legal rights."

U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen gave final approval to the settlement Dec. 16. She approved "incentive awards" to the "named plaintiffs serving as class representatives" of $2,500, in addition to any distributions they get from the settlement.

The attorneys' fees won't be paid out of the $3 million and they will get $775,000 to $825,000, depending on how many class members submit claims, another order from Ericksen said.

Eligible to file claims: Anyone who was "stopped, questioned, arrested, charged, frisked, detained or searched ... or whose dwelling was searched ... by a peace officer or peace officers serving on or assisting the (strike force) ... in an incident where property was taken ... without a receipt or inventory itemization, or ... without notification to the property owner of his or her right to contest the forfeiture," according to the settlement order and final judgment.
As of this morning, 118 people had filed claims, Hopper said. A special master will determine which claims merit an award.

Though people have until Thursday to file claims, Ericksen allowed "a window from the closing of the notice period" — until Jan. 14 — for anyone who files a little late, Hopper said.

The strike force was shut in 2009, after the state legislative auditor issued a report that said the strike force couldn't account for more than $18,000 in seized cash and 14 seized cars. An independent review issued later said that perhaps a dozen strike force employees engaged in misconduct, and some in criminal acts, by taking seized goods for their own use.

Although auditors and investigators found what they termed widespread abuses, former Minneapolis police Officer Jason Andersen was the gang unit's only member to face prosecution. He was acquitted of using excessive force when he kicked a teen during a 2008 incident.

The civil settlement is "absolutely not" an admission of guilt, said Kori Land, an attorney representing the strike force's advisory board, in August.

After claims are paid, a "significant portion of the settlement will fund additional statewide" training for officers "about cultural and racial sensitivity, property handling procedures and basic constitutional rights," according to a news release.

People who believe the Metro Gang Strike Force improperly seized their property can call 866-211-0079 or e-mail MGSFSettlement@zimmreed.com. Information is also available at www.mgsfsettlement.com.

Mara Gottfried can be reached at 651-228-5262.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you sure this isn't being operated by the City of St. Paul?
It seems our country is in danger of becoming a kleptocracy.

2:17 PM  
Anonymous MetroGangForce said...

Filed Claim NO FEE: Defendants have to be notified Special Master Mark Gehan Fed. Judge Joan Erickson same Judge who Denied the LandLords Class Action? Duhhhhhhh
www.mgsfsettlement.com

2:23 PM  

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