Director of civil forfeiture sues estate of accused drug trafficker after overdose death

·4 min read
Ezra Beau Sametz died of a drug overdose in August 2021. B.C.'s director of civil forfeiture is suing his estate for money they claim is the proceeds of crime. (Facebook - image credit)
Ezra Beau Sametz died of a drug overdose in August 2021. B.C.'s director of civil forfeiture is suing his estate for money they claim is the proceeds of crime. (Facebook - image credit)

The day before he was found dead of a drug overdose, a package containing $120,000 in $50, $20, and $10 bills arrived at the downtown condo where Ezra Beau Sametz drew his last breath.

B.C.'s director of civil forfeiture is now seeking to confiscate that money as the proceeds of crime — suing Sametz's estate in B.C. Supreme Court and claiming the 38-year-old was a drug trafficker with links to organized crime.

The lawsuit details the investigation that led to the Vancouver police discovery of the cash at the site of Sametz's death, along with an industrial pill press, two money counters, a handgun and quantities of heroin, cocaine, psilocybin mushrooms and methamphetamine.

'An instrument of unlawful activity'

The case underscores the tragedy of B.C.'s opioid epidemic — and the death of a young man who succumbed to the same drug crisis he's accused of perpetuating.

According to the lawsuit, the concierge of the Coal Harbour condo where Sametz died received a package on Aug. 16, 2021, addressed to the suite where his body was found the next day.

CBC
CBC

On Aug.19, the concierge allegedly found a controlled substance in the suite and called police, handing over the package to investigators, who discovered 18 elastic-wrapped bundles of Canadian currency inside.

The lawsuit claims police found another $445.40 in the highrise condo unit. In addition to the drugs, money counter and gun, officers allegedly found two knives, a can of bear mace and a vacuum seal machine.

Police seized the money, and days later, they allegedly found traces of cocaine, methamphetamine, fentanyl and heroin on the bills.

"The money is proceeds and an instrument of unlawful activity," the lawsuit reads.

"The money has been used by the deceased to engage in unlawful activities which variously resulted in, or were likely to result in, the acquisition of property or an interest in property, or caused, or were likely to cause serious bodily harm."

None of the claims have been proven in court.

A previous civil forfeiture case

It's not the first time B.C.'s director of civil forfeiture has come after Sametz.

Vancouver police allegedly found $470 in his wallet in 2018 after conducting a traffic stop on a 2002 Honda Civic in which Sametz was a passenger.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Police found baggies full of cocaine on the driver's side of the car, but they located $4,500 in a backpack on the passenger's side.

The director of civil forfeiture ultimately reached a settlement that saw Sametz allowed to keep a quarter of the total amount of money found in the vehicle.

In his response to the lawsuit, Sametz claimed he had recently been laid off from his job as a painter with a shipping company where he earned at least $6,000 a month.

He claimed he held the job for two years, was in the process of moving and had "sold household items for cash payments in the preceding days."

He said he was planning to settle a legal bill — which is why he claimed he was carrying such a substantial amount.

The lawsuit noted that Sametz had seven previous convictions for possession of a controlled substance. But in his response, Sametz pointed out that only the driver was charged in connection with drugs found in the traffic stop.

'We all loved him'

Josh Oppal represented Sametz in the first case; the lawyer would not speak to the claim against his former client's estate but noted the civil forfeiture process has been criticized for forcing people who may not have been charged to prove their money is not the proceeds of crime.

He learned of Sametz's death through the media.

"I really feel for [the family,]" he said.

Sametz's father declined to comment when contacted by the CBC.

A trawl through the internet provides only fragments of a life cut short.

A song produced in Sametz's memory by an artist who writes: "I so badly want to talk with him, it really feels terrible."

A Facebook page announcing a new job as a painter in 2017.

And a comment on a memorial page from an old friend who recalled showing Sametz her one-week-old daughter: "He couldn't believe how beautiful she was and tiny. It's the first time I seen the real man in him that he would one day become. To have learned he became a father Is beautiful."

A brief obituary says Sametz — who went by Beau — "died suddenly on Aug. 16." He was survived by his parents, stepmother, brother, "aunts, uncles, cousins and many friends."

"We all loved him," the obituary reads.

"He wanted nothing more than to be with his daughter."

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