In re Search of Amalia’s Translation and Tax Service

Criminal Justice | Immigrants’ Rights | Privacy & Technology
Case No. 2009-CV-100, District Court, Nineteenth Judicial District
ACLU Case No. 2008-21

Description:

UPDATE: 12/21/10 – Judge rules for the ACLU, making the preliminary injunction permanent. This directs the Weld County clerk to destroy all copies of information obtained from the illegal search and seizure of tax files from Amalia's Translation & Tax Service. Furthermore, Weld County authorities are forbidden from using or acting upon any information learned from the contents of those files.

In October, 2008, Weld County deputies searched the Greeley office of Amalia’s Translation and Tax Service, a tax preparation and translation service whose customers primarily come from the immigrant and Spanish-speaking community. The deputies took 49 file boxes containing the tax returns and related information pertaining to 4900 clients and dating as far back as 2000. They also took dozens of CDs and floppy disks and copied the hard drives of the business’s computers, which contained electronic copies of clients’ tax returns as well as confidential documents of customers who used the business’s translation service.

District Attorney Ken Buck announced the search was part of “Operation Number Games,” an investigation aimed at undocumented immigrants. After reviewing all 4900 files, Buck said that he was investigating hundreds for “criminal impersonation” or “identity theft”—for earning wages under a social security number that was fake or not their own. The tax preparer is not a suspect—the application for search warrant acknowledges that she was following IRS procedures and not violating any laws.

This case challenges the validity of the search warrant and the subsequent search and asserts that Weld County officials violated the right of privacy of thousands of innocent taxpayers who were not suspected of any wrongdoing.

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief on behalf of the business owner and a class of tax-preparation clients whose records were seized and copied. As a remedy, the ACLU asks for an order that the District Attorney return all originals and destroy all copies and all compilations of confidential information obtained in the illegal search.

"Judge Halts Investigation Into ID Theft in Colorado", New York Times, Apr. 13, 2009


Attorneys:

Elizabeth Harris
Mark Silverstein , ACLU of Colorado Legal Director
Michael Glade
N. Reid Neureiter
Shannon Lyons
Taylor Pendergrass , ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney



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