Monday, June 1, 2009

Sometimes, Crime Does Pay

The old adage that "crime doesn't pay" doesn't take into account the proceeds of criminal activity seized by law enforcement agencies.
Whether it’s the selling of pirated CDs, illegal drugs or a host of other items, the money that people make through illicit means is subject to seizure by law enforcement agencies.

Strict state and federal guidelines dictate the process agencies must go through to seize and eventually spend the money.

All seizures are handled as civil lawsuits. If the state can prove money found at a crime scene was made through ill gotten ways it then becomes property of the agency that made the discovery and filed the necessary paperwork.

In Bell County, an average of two to three seizure cases flow through the court system each week, mostly for small amounts of cash or vehicles. Sometimes the suits are for larger amounts.

District Attorney Henry Garza said many of the cases are never contested, presumably because defendants with criminal charges could damage their cases by going on the record in a related civil case.

Garza said cases are often built against people with no visible employment who can purchase luxury items.

“We can begin to link and tie back that the person is involved in drugs,” he said. “That’s our burden of proof.”

The amount of money local agencies seize each year fluctuates. Last year was a good year for both Temple and Killeen compared to the previous year. The cities seized 83 percent and 72 percent more respectively.

In both cities the large increase was attributed to single cases - a raid in Temple on a small grocery store and a Killeen drug bust. Source: Temple Daily Telegram

The same article points to the lengths that some criminal will go to hide their assets from seizure.
After Killeen police took possession of the television, there was unusual interest in getting it back. That prompted police to take off the back cover. Inside, police found an additional $30,000 in cash.

Dahlia Denisse Cuevas was eventually given deferred adjudication on the drug charge. PB Griffin IV came forward and claimed the $30,000 found in the television.

Griffin said he earned the money at Haterproof Paint & Body, which he owned, and at his second job as the night manager and trainer at a Killeen gym.

He said the money was saved as a reward his family had offered for the capture of his brother’s killer. Griffin said he hid the money in the back of the television because his previous bank deposits had been seized to pay his back child support payments.

The entire $50,660 was eventually awarded to Killeen. Source: Temple Daily Telegram

Unfortunately, some agencies have been known to focus more on the seizure and less on the criminal case. Take the tiny Texas town of Tenaha for example. At least that doesn't seem to be the case around Bell County right now.

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