Forfeiture – an important tool

By Frank Lewis - [email protected]

U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman has announced the creation of a District forfeiture unit tasked with ensuring the District is as successful as possible at seizing ill-gotten gains.

The Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program encompasses the seizure and forfeiture of assets that represent the proceeds of, or were used to facilitate certain federal crimes, or that were involved in money laundering. Glassman said the primary mission of the program is to employ the federal asset forfeiture laws in a manner that enhances public safety and security and promotes justice. He said that is accomplished by removing the proceeds of crime and other assets relied upon by criminals and their associates to perpetuate their criminal activity against our society.

Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware agrees.

“Asset forfeiture has proven to be a valuable tool in disrupting criminal enterprises’ ability to continue to operate post conviction,” Ware said. “When done properly, civil and criminal asset forfeiture can provide for the dismantling of a criminal network instead of replacing one individual with the next individual to continue to operate the enterprise. This is especially true in the case of organized drug trafficking rings.”

Glassman was on the same page when he said asset forfeiture has the power to disrupt or dismantle criminal organizations that would continue to function if we only convicted and incarcerated specific individuals. United States Attorneys’ Offices are responsible for the prosecution of both criminal and civil actions against property used or acquired during illegal activity.

“Forfeiture is a set of legal tools, both civil and criminal, that we use to ensure that crime doesn’t pay,” Glassman said.

For example, in fiscal year 2016, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio forfeited assets valued in excess of $9 million.

In addition to allowing for the forfeiture of criminal proceeds, property that facilitates crime and property involved in money laundering, the law also requires defendants to pay restitution to victims of certain federal crimes who have suffered a physical injury or financial loss. Ensuring that assets are available to compensate crime victims is a priority of the Asset Forfeiture Program.

Glassman said Assistant U.S. Attorneys Deborah Grimes and Pamela Stanek will oversee the forfeiture efforts of the District.

“Both Assistant U.S. Attorneys Grimes and Stanek have the expertise in this increasingly complicated body of law that – if you want to get the most out of it – requires sustained attention at multiple stages of investigations and cases,” Glassman said. “Both women have taught federal prosecutors from across the country on this topic and have served on national working groups, in addition to lending their knowledge to other federal agencies. Having them officially lead our forfeiture work will promote better restitution for victims and less profit for criminals.”

By Frank Lewis

[email protected]

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.