The U.S. Department of Justice has agreed to return 100% of the funds seized—approximately $1.1 million—from Empyreal Logistics during stops of its armored vehicles by the San Bernardino County Sheriff. The funds were transferred to federal law enforcement for civil forfeiture proceedings. Represented by the Institute for Justice (IJ) and David C. Bass, Partner at KNCH LLP, Empyreal brought a lawsuit in January arguing that all funds seized were financial institution deposits from state-licensed and state-legal cannabis businesses.  

“Empyreal has always viewed ourselves as a partner to financial institutions and law enforcement,” said Empyreal CEO Deirdra O’Gorman. “Our service increases transparency and makes communities safer. Empyreal is committed to continuing our mission of working with financial institutions and their state-legal business customers.”  

Empyreal is a fintech and armored car company operating in 28 states that provides cash logistics solutions. This includes secure delivery between legal businesses (such as state-licensed cannabis businesses) and financial institutions. By design, Empyreal never transports cannabis products. Empyreal also serves a growing list of non-cannabis businesses, including financial institutions, restaurants and convenience stores.  

“Empyreal was operating legally under California law, but with current federal civil forfeiture laws, even compliant businesses can be targeted. Civil forfeiture enabled law enforcement to seize over a million dollars in legal business proceeds and threaten to keep it,” said IJ Senior Attorney Dan Alban. “Returning this money is the right thing to do and we’re pleased to have helped Empyreal secure this outcome.” 

In exchange for the return of the funds, Empyreal will dismiss its case against the federal government over the seizures. The settlement announced today does not include the San Bernardino County Sheriff and does not affect a separate civil forfeiture action in Kansas in which Empyreal is represented by separate counsel. 

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