If you’re going to hustle, it’s important to take into account how that effects others. It’s also important to consider how much you stand to lose when you get caught. Christos and Markella Sourovelis from the Philadelphia area learned this lesson the hard way when their house was seized by police after their 22-year-old son, Yianni, was caught with $40 worth of heroin at their home.
“I’m a working guy. I work every day, six days a week, even seven if I have to,” Christos told CNN. Yianni was working, too. He was allegedly dealing heroin out of his parents’ home. For this reason, the police came knocking, taking Yianni for possession of heroin valued at $40. The Sourvelises claim to have no knowledge of their son’s involvement with drugs, but a month and a half later, the police returned to claim their home flanked by the electric company to seize the house and shut off the electricity. They bolted the doors and kicked the Sourvelises and their children out into the street. The police even came with a lawsuit against the house claiming “the house was tied to illegal drugs and therefore subject to civil forfeiture.” It was transferred over to the Philadelphia District Attorney. “I was so upset thinking somebody’s going to take my house for nothing. That makes me crazy,” said Christos.
The Sourvelises join a list of 500 Philadelphia families who have had their homes or cars seized by police over the past two years. Over the past 10 years, Philadelphia has proven one of the more aggressive places when it comes to civil forfeiture, This is due to the civil forfeiture law in place allowing police to seize property tied to the sale of illegal drugs. Unlike criminal forfeiture, civil forfeiture allows authorities to seize property even if the owner has not been charged with a crime, like the Sourvelises (except in North Carolina where one must be charged with a crime to have property seized). Civil liberty attorneys with the Institute of Justice recently filed a lawsuit against the Philadelphia who have seized “1,000 houses, about 3,300 vehicles and $44 million in cash, totaling $64 million” over the past decade. Attorneys claim, “Civil forfeiture is something that is an assault upon fundamental notions of private property ownership and due process.”
The Philadelphia D.A. say that civil forfeiture is a last resort. Apparently the $40 worth of dope found in the Sourvelises home was too much.