The U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York collected $570 million in forfeitures between Oct. 1, 2008, and Sept. 30, 2009, The New York Daily News reported Sunday. The breakdown includes $450 million from criminal forfeitures and $120 million in civil forfeitures. The total amount is more than 11 times SDNY’s annual budget.
Under federal forfeiture laws, federal prosecutors can seize personal items that were were stolen or bought with tainted cash. After the items are seized, they are auctioned off to compensate victims and fund new probes.
“They think they can do some time, get out and then be able to pull out their ill-gotten gains and keep it,” SDNY U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. “Our answer to them is: ‘No, you can’t.’”
“For the victims, we are often all they have, so we are careful not just to get the bad guy, but to get their recompense,” he added.
Over the past five fiscal years, a seven-member asset forfeiture team in the Manhattan-based office, led by Sharon Cohen Levin, has collected more than $2 billion in forfeitures, more than any other team nationwide, the newspaper reported. “They have collected more than the GNP of a country like Belize,” Bharara added.