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Federal Agents Sued After Raiding Bottled Water Employees, Confiscating Cellphones

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Mountain Pure LLC of Little Rock and several of its employees said federal agents crossed the line when they executed a search warrant at the plant in January 2012.

The employees said in a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Little Rock that Cynthia M. Roberts, a special agent with the Office of the Inspector General of the Small Business Administration, Bobbi Spradlin, a special agent with the Internal Revenue Service, and possibly 20 more agents swooped in and started seizing items, allegedly violating the employees’ constitutional rights in the process.

The officers were searching for proof of economic crimes in connection with a SBA loan made to John Stacks, the principal owner of Mountain Pure. As of last week, Stacks has not been charged with any crime, according to one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit, Tim Dudley of Little Rock.

When they arrived at the bottling plant, the “law enforcement agents conducted a SWAT team raid,” the lawsuit said. “Some of the agents had their weapons drawn.”

Employees were shepherded into one area of the plant and their cell phones were confiscated. As agents searched the plant, employees couldn’t leave or communicate with anyone outside the building for several hours, the lawsuit said.

Some of the agents started grilling the employees, but failed to remind them of their Miranda rights, the lawsuit said. When some employees asked for their attorney, “their requests were denied,” the suit said.

The employees said the agents seized “thousands of documents,” some of which fell outside the scope of the warrant, including college textbooks.

The employees and the company said the only reason for the SWAT-type raid was to generate publicity. News outlets reported on the raid, resulting in a drop in revenue as some customers stopped buying Mountain Pure products, the suit said. And banks that had a lending relationship with the company refused to renew or extend credit “because of the raid,” the lawsuit said.

The employees said their Fourth Amendment right prohibiting unreasonable seizures was violated as well as their rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. They are seeking an unspecified amount of damages from the agents, Roberts, Spradlin and the other unnamed officers.

A spokesperson for the Office of Inspector General didn’t immediately return a call for comment. A spokesman for the IRS declined to comment.

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