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He’d been doing business for thirty years and if what he’d been doing wasn’t illegal like selling moonshine it also wasn’t quite the same as being President of the local bank or owner of the corner drug store: When someone got into a bind he’d pay them cold hard cash on the barrel head for their gold jewelry or silver flatware or other precious metals.

What landed him in a fix was buying gold from a stranger who turned out to be not just a burglar but a burglar from Southern Pines who was charged with 91 counts; all the police had to see was his business card in the burglar’s wallet to head for his home in Raleigh.

The search left his house a shambles but the detectives didn’t find so much as one single stolen gold coin: In the end, the worst crime they could charge him with was doing business without a city permit. So, after he cleaned up the mess, he probably figured the worst was behind him until his bank called and told his wife she needed to deposit $18,000 to cover checks that were about to start bouncing.

That’s when he found out the government had done something he’d never dreamed was possible: Take every penny he had. $115,000.

Now it’s troubling his business was more a pawn shop than the First National Bank, and the worrisomeness is compounded by the fact he paid a burglar cash for gold, but that’s beside the point: The point is when a federal agent can walk into your bank and take every penny you have – without charging you with a crime or giving you a chance to stand in front of a jury – the days when a man was innocent until proven guilty are gone.

It’s sort of like finding out they’ve taken the stars and stripes out of the flag.

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