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Hampton, VA Prosecutors Using Forfeiture Power To Extract A Percentage

On December 17, 2012, in federal, states, by Scott Alexander Meiner

The Daily Press’s Peter Dujardin reports on prosecutorial attempts to extract a percentage of bulk-currency seized from a New Jersey truck driver:

The money is now at the center of a pending asset forfeiture case in Hampton Circuit Court. Both Terron and another New Jersey man, Harvey Acevedo — who wasn’t in the truck that day but asserts the cash was his — have interests in the money, according to court documents.

Neither Terron, 36, of Perth Amboy, N.J., nor Acevedo, 40, of Edison, N.J., were arrested or charged with any crimes.

A trial on whether the $80,690 in cash should be forfeited is on the court’s docket, scheduled for Dec. 14 before Circuit Court Judge Louis R. Lerner.

But the prosecutor on the case, Hampton Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Tim Murphy, said the matter is likely to be settled before that time. “We are working toward a mutual resolution,” Murphy said. “That we would get ‘X’ amount, and they would get ‘Y’ amount.”

The percentage that each side will get out of the $80,690 “is still being negotiated,” Murphy said, adding that Lerner would also need to sign off on the deal to avoid the trial.

Murphy said the prosecutors’ office’s interest in settling the case did not arise from publicity surrounding the Blue Water Tobacco cigarette operation nor from concerns over the conduct of officers involved in the sting.

“This isn’t an attempt to cover up what happened,” Murphy said of the likelihood of a settlement. “This was something that was presented to the defense at the very beginning of the case … In fact, I was prepared to do depositions with all the guys and put everything on the record.” Peter Dujardin, Hampton settlement close over $80,690 seized by police: No charges were ever filed despite cash being confiscated by officers, The Daily Press, 05 Dec. 2012.

Accepting the prosecutor’s candor as true, how is this not simply an unseemly tax–of the ilk mobsters impose–on bulk-currency moving through the jurisdiction? Willingness to simply charge a percentage, from inception, unmoors whatever tortured justification exists for civil asset forfeiture.

It also profiles perfectly with the sordid Blue Water Tobacco cigarette operation–an off-budget operation, prefaced on the need to crack-down on cigarette smugglers, that generated $3 million in revenue for local police,  but turned up no arrests (unless you count the instigating ATF agent who started the operation…He eventually entered a plea agreement admitting one count each of wire fraud, embezzlement, possessing stolen firearms, making a false statement and money-laundering).


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