Asset Forfeiture

New York Prosecutors Gave Themselves $3.2 Million in Bonuses With Asset Forfeiture Funds

One Suffolk County prosecutor, facing criminal charges for covering up the beating of a suspect, received $70,000 in bonuses.

|

Former Suffolk County D.A. Thomas Spota // John Roca/Polaris/Newscom

The Suffolk County District Attorney's Office in New York doled out $3.25 million in bonuses to prosecutors from its asset forfeiture fund since 2012, according to records obtained by Newsday through a Freedom of Information request.

Newsday reported that the funds were $500,000 more than previously reported, leading to consternation from local legislators:

Bonus recipients included deputy chief homicide prosecutor Robert Biancavilla, who received a total of $108,886 between 2012 and 2017, and division chief Edward Heilig and top public corruption prosecutor Christopher McPartland, who each received $73,000, according to records obtained from county Comptroller John Kennedy's office through the Freedom of Information Law […]

On Tuesday, the legislature will hold a public hearing on a bill by Legis. Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue) to require asset forfeiture expenditures, including by the district attorney's office and the police, sheriff's and probation departments, to be approved by the Public Safety Committee […]

"Asset forfeiture money that comes into this county counts into the millions of dollars," Calarco said. "That's a lot of money to be spent at the sole discretion of an individual with no oversight."

According to Newsday, the U.S. Attorney's Office has subpoenaed the Suffolk County D.A. for more records on the bonuses.

The probe is ongoing fallout from the investigation of former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke. Burke was sentenced this year to 46 months in federal prison for the 2012 beating of a young man who had stolen a duffel bag full of pornography and sex toys from the chief's unlocked SUV and the coverup of the beating. Former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota and McPartland have been indicted for their alleged role in the coverup. Spota resigned a day after his indictment.

Duffel bags full of porno aside, the bonuses reveal one of the more problematic aspects of asset forfeiture. Law enforcement groups say asset forfeiture is a vital tool to disrupt organized drug trafficking. However, civil liberties advocates argue that lax reporting requirements, and the fact that asset forfeiture proceeds often flow directly into police and prosecutor budgets, create oversight-free expense accounts and perverse profit incentives.

As I wrote in September, recent news investigations have revealed several instances asset forfeiture accounts being used as off-the-books revenue streams:

Philadelphia Weekly, in collaboration with City & State PA, reported Wednesday that the local D.A.'s office had spent $7 million in asset forfeiture funds over the last five years, including "at least one contract that appears to have violated city ethics guidelines—construction work awarded to a company linked to one of the DA's own staff detectives." […]

Meanwhile, Cincinnati's City Beat published a similar investigation into Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters' forfeiture piggy bank. City Beat found that the prosecutor office's $1.7 million forfeiture fund "has been tapped regularly for mundane purchases and, on two occasions, sketchy consulting contracts that Deters won't discuss."

The Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning law firm that has challenged forfeiture laws in several states, released a report this year finding that 26 states have little to no transparency requirements for asset forfeiture. Fourteen states "do not appear to require any form of property tracking, leaving in doubt even such basic questions as what was seized and how much it was worth, who seized it, when it was seized, where it was seized, and why it was seized."

Without stricter oversight and reporting requirements, the public must take it on faith that police and prosecutors in places like Suffolk County are being scrupulous with the money they seize from them. In this case, a Suffolk County prosecutor facing criminal charges for covering up the civil rights violations of a U.S. citizen received more than $70,000 in bonuses for his job performance.

Who knows what else is hiding in the forfeiture accounts—and duffel bags—of the public officials sworn to protect us?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

38 responses to “New York Prosecutors Gave Themselves $3.2 Million in Bonuses With Asset Forfeiture Funds

  1. I can’t figure out why no one wants to reform asset forfeiture.

    1. la la la la la la la ka-ching!

      1. You can still open foreign bank and brokerage accounts 100% through the mail, even as an American, and the US or State governments will NEVER be able to forfeit your property:

        https://rocketr.net/buy/a11b834db300

        1. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link,

          go? to tech tab for work detail,,, http://www.onlinecareer10.com

      2. Beijing, Peking, now you have guessed the new name for China’s capitol: ChaChing They may allow you to use it in this instance but in no way will they forfeit it.

    2. Try using the word “repeal,” or better still, “ban.” After the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, the mayor put up signs saying “LOOTERS WILL BE SHOT.” Heck… that’s the whole point of having a Second Amendment in the first place!

      1. We should amend the constitution to stop such a thing. Wait… what’s that… it’s already in there?

      2. Yes, only way to reform this is to put into the correct venue. Criminal Court. Get a conviction and prove the item/cash is connected to the crime convicted of or get bent.

        1. That didn’t work. In 1920, making beer a felony provided the pretext for asset-forfeiture (they called it libel then) of an ocean liner over a case of champagne. The law became an incentive to rob. Flivvers were forfeited for a hip flask, just as today a smidgin of Bolivian Ritalin or some other plant leaf extract suffices to transfer your ride (or home) to the pigs and prosecutors while leaving you stuck with the payments. This principle applied to bank accounts by the tax boys was the major cause of the Great Depression heralded by the Crash of 1929.

        2. That didn’t work. In 1920, making beer a felony provided the pretext for asset-forfeiture (they called it libel then) of an ocean liner over a case of champagne. The law became an incentive to rob. Flivvers were forfeited for a hip flask, just as today a smidgin of Bolivian Ritalin or some other plant leaf extract suffices to transfer your ride (or home) to the pigs and prosecutors while leaving you stuck with the payments. This principle applied to bank accounts by the tax boys was the major cause of the Great Depression heralded by the Crash of 1929.

        3. That didn’t work. In 1920, making beer a felony provided the pretext for asset-forfeiture (they called it libel then) of an ocean liner over a case of champagne. The law became an incentive to rob. Flivvers were forfeited for a hip flask, just as today a smidgin of Bolivian Ritalin or some other plant leaf extract suffices to transfer your ride (or home) to the pigs and prosecutors while leaving you stuck with the payments. This principle applied to bank accounts by the tax boys was the major cause of the Great Depression heralded by the Crash of 1929.

    3. Because republicans are in control and they’ll go along with anything cops and prosecutors want. Really not that complicated.

      1. Cuz there wasn’t a progressive administration for the last 8 years that could have stopped it.

      2. Despite it being a problem for over a decade, when the Democrats had all the laws, they did nothing because Holder was planning a shake down of the banks. How many went to jail during Zero’s reign? How much did Holder bribe Leftist groups with? Were any victims compensated?

        1. “Despite it being a problem for over a decade,…”

          “Asset forfeiture money that comes into this county counts into the millions of dollars,” Calarco said. “That’s a lot of money to be spent at the sole discretion of an individual with no oversight.”

          How is it that the gubermint always seems to be behind the curve when it comes to it’s own oversight and prohibitions. Lack of oversight in gubermint speak translates into not enough palms being greased.

          And not for nothing but it is not simply an individual with no oversight. Look at the people who are the actual recipients of the loot/ill gotten gains…..a deputy chief prosecutor, division chief and top public corruption chief. No duty/expectation for them to question the source of monies they accept? Appearance of impropriety, anyone.

  2. Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke … was sentenced this year to 46 months in federal prison for the 2012 beating of a young man who had stolen a duffel bag full of pornography and sex toys from the chief’s unlocked SUV and the coverup of the beating.

    More like Some Fuck County. 8-(

    1. a young man who had stolen a duffel bag full of pornography and sex toys from the chief’s unlocked SUV

      Way to bury the lede. Also, A Duffel Bag Full Of Pornography And Sex Toys was my nickname in military school.

      1. This is an example of my bad luck. Some dude I know had a this big box full of hardcore porn mags, the kind that used to cost $10-20 a piece and you could only find them at certain shops. He wanted to get rid of it and give it to me. I didn’t want it, so I told him no. He was best friends with my roommate at the time, who got my keys and opened my trunk and put the box in there. I found it later and was like, har har guys. But I left it in there. I’ll give it to someone else later. Whatever. The very next day someone rear ends my car and the trunk won’t open. Eventually the shop I took it to found it I suppose, but it was a shop owned by a friend of my Dad’s and I couldn’t really not take it there because they quoted me a price thousands less than others. The friend was a pretty devout evangelical christian. Anyway, when I got the car back, the box was gone and no one said a word to me. Still embarrassing. It wasn’t even mine!! I swear!!

        1. The Internet is a wonderful thing.

        2. Dude you totally should’ve asked for your box back. And don’t bring up shame as an excuse, you’re a libertarian.

      2. Duffel Bag was my pet name for your mom.

    2. Waitaminnit! The pig was actually convicted and sentenced even after he resigned? What next? Civil convictions for shooting pets? Murder raps for murderers with badges? REPEAL of the asset-forfeiture looting passes that have worsened every crash and depression since 1893?

  3. …division chief Edward Heilig and top public corruption prosecutor Christopher McPartland, who each received $73,000…

    Hmmm….

    1. What was second prize?

  4. Only a rookie carries their porn in a duffle bag; it bends the magazines and causes the edges to fold over.

  5. Pure unadulterated looting.

  6. Amendment V
    No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

    The Constitution demands that $1000 in seized cash be compensated by $1000 in cash to the person it was seized from.

    1. Yeah, well, who’s gonna make the cops obey that old dead letter? The cops?

      1. Spoiler votes. Just as soldiers begin thinking objectively when the next guy over is splashed, so looter politicians begin looking at looter platform planks when their gang members start losing their asses, seats, government paychecks, bodyguards, perks, pelf, boodle and blowjobs from interns. I’ll bet money the next Dem platform copies no global warming or carbon tax crapola from the commies or econazis.

      2. > who’s gonna make the cops obey

        Invoke Rule .308

    2. Also don’t most states demand higher then market return when taking? So have a $1000 taken get back $1300.

      Stimulus Package!!!!

  7. Thieves are always against closing the loophole that lets them steal.

  8. Too bad most “conservatives” will do anything they can sell as “law and order”. Not just asset forfeiture but cops getting to play army man (just look at the police chiefs’ fake 4star general uniform complete with meaningless ribbons). They even gave the cops tanks!

    1. Oh yeah because those democrats are sure on top of that…including the one featured in this article. Thomas Spota is a democrat, you tool.

    2. New York – a conservative bastion. Got it.

  9. . . . the public must take it on faith that police and prosecutors in places like Suffolk County are being scrupulous with the money they seize from them.

    Seconded. If I’m robbed at gunpoint, I will definitely demand assurances that my wealth is being used scrupulously.

  10. They have come a long way in “fundraising”, I remember when policemen used to have balls.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.