Joseph Rivers put his life savings on the line. With help from his mother, Rivers had saved $16,000 to pursue a career as a music video producer.

In April, Rivers, 22, boarded a train bound for Los Angeles, never expecting his dream to be literally taken away from him.

At a train stop in Albuquerque, N.M., an officer from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) seized the $16,000 from Rivers.

After Rivers answered multiple questions about his travel plans, the officer then asked to search Rivers’ bag.

“Upon him asking me to search my luggage, I told him, ‘Yes,’” Rivers told The Daily Signal. “He found the bank envelope with my money.”

The officer then asked Rivers’ mother, Mary Jackson, if she was aware of Rivers’ travel plans and the amount of money he was carrying.

“I explained to him that when Joseph traveled before, he had issues with taking out large sums of money,” Jackson told The Daily Signal. “Joseph didn’t want to run into those same problems so that’s why he carried the cash.”

The officer seized Rivers’ cash through civil asset forfeiture laws.

This tool was originally intended for law enforcement to seize money and property that was connected to criminal activity.

But lately, local and state law enforcement agencies have received criticism for using the tool to increase revenues.

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Rivers believes his case is another example of law enforcement abusing this power.

“Once he found the money, the way I felt, is that he was more so looking for a reason to take it,” Rivers said.

According to an official DEA notification, Rivers’ $16,000 in cash was seized “because the property was used or acquired as a result of a violation of the Controlled Substances Act.”

Despite never being charged with a crime, the DEA has yet to return the $16,000 to Rivers.

Rivers recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to tell his story and ask lawmakers to end civil asset forfeiture abuse.

“I boarded the train with high aspirations to achieve my goal and be successful,” Rivers said. “My dream has been put on hold until I can get the funds to move back and start on my journey again.”