This is the heartbreaking true story of the Kwon’s a hardworking immigrant family in pursuit of the American Dream – but greeted with an American Nightmare.
Oh Suk Kwon – South Korean immigrant and U.S. army veteran – was proud to run his small-business alongside his wife and two kids. But only a few years passed before a “hunch” led federal investigators to their doorstep in 2011. The agents accused Kwon of “structuring” his deposits in amounts less than ten thousand dollars. Since all that is needed for asset seizures is a suspicion of criminal activity to take a person’s property, the Kwon’s were helpless in the face of an IRS legal onslaught.
But despite having zero history of tax evasion, terrorist ties, or any criminal activity, the IRS continued to seize all of the service station’s capital through an unconstitutional abuse of power called civil asset forfeiture. The process allows for property to be seized and forfeited without ever charging, much less convicting the owner of a crime. These seizures are often justified by mere suspicion with little, if any, actual evidence tying property or currency to a crime. The practice negates an American’s right to due process and reflects an erroneous assumption that Americans are guilty until proven innocent.
Kwon innocently plead guilty to the technicality of structuring even though his intent wasn’t of a criminal nature. This would act as the final nail for the IRS to shut the coffin on a business that was, very much, alive. A Washington Post article stated that when his neighbors were interviewed during the investigation, Kwon said, “They saw me as Korean. As a veteran. They were surprised to see me as a criminal. I will never forget that.”
Out of the shame caused by having their business destroyed, the Kwon family left the neighborhood. Kwon’s wife in of the distress. The feds never uncovered any evidence of criminal activity, and still – to this day – possess the fifty-nine thousand dollars that tore this family apart.
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) has since sponsored the RESPECT Act in efforts to restore these Constitutional rights. The Restraining Excessive Seizure of Property through the Exploitation of Civil asset forfeiture Tools (RESPECT) Act recently passed in the House and is pending a vote in the senate. Americans for Tax Reform released a coalition letter urging support for this act and the similar Due Process Act.