Civil Asset Forfeiture

Georgia Sheriff Buys $70K Dodge Charger Hellcat With Forfeiture Funds

Now the Justice Department wants the money back, calling the purchase "extravagant."


Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office

Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway thinks his department's $70,000, 707-horsepower Dodge Charger Hellcat (black with tinted windows, natch) is a perfectly normal policing tool to buy with federal asset forfeiture funds.

The U.S. Department of Justice disagrees.

The Justice Department sent a letter last week demanding that the Georgia county reimburse it for the "extravagant" muscle car, which was purchased with funds from the Equitable Sharing Program—a federal program that funnels hundreds of millions of dollars a year in asset forfeiture revenues to local and state police departments.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

Guidelines prohibit "the use of equitably shared funds for extravagant expenditures," the [Justice Department]'s letter, dated July 10, said. "The vehicle in question is a high-performance vehicle not typically purchased as part of a traditional fleet of law enforcement vehicles."

The feds also took issue with part of the request that stated Conway would also use the car for undercover and covert operations.

The sheriff's office defended the claim. It said that, in addition to driving the car to and from work, Conway uses it "when he participates in field operations, covert and otherwise, with our deputies."

Under the equitable sharing program, federal authorities may "adopt" state and local forfeiture cases and prosecute them at the federal level. Those local police departments get to keep up to 80 percent of the forfeiture revenue, while the rest goes into the equitable sharing pool and is distributed among partner departments around the country.

Civil liberties groups have long argued that the program allows local and state police to bypass state-level restrictions on asset forfeiture. In response to growing criticism, former Attorney General Eric Holder introduced new rules limiting so-called adoptions in 2015.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded those rules last summer. "President Trump has directed this Department of Justice to reduce crime in this country, and we will use every lawful tool that we have to do that," Sessions said. "We will continue to encourage civil asset forfeiture whenever appropriate in order to hit organized crime in the wallet."

The Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office is far from the first department to get in hot water for misusing forfeiture funds, or even the first in Georgia. For example, there was the $90,000 Dodge Viper that the Camden County sheriff purchased with forfeiture funds for the department's DARE program.

Then there was the Illinois police department that spent more than $20,000 in equitable sharing funds on accessories for two lightly used motorcycles, including after-market exhaust pipes, decorative chrome, and heated handgrips.

Between 2014 and 2016, the Tennessee Department of Homeland Security spent $112,614 in asset forfeiture funds on catering, luncheons, retail food, and banquet tickets, all of which are not allowable expenses under the Justice Department's guidelines for the equitable sharing program.

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  1. The U.S. Department of Justice disagrees.

    Trump’s America.

    1. Which DOJ – Sessions, or Rosenstein’s? We have two systems at the moment, and one of these gentlmen has not received advice and consent of the senate to wield powers of AG.

  2. Just stop the practice. Simple.

    1. Right. They’re strategy seems to be hey, let’s not give any fuel to people wanting to end it entirely, so let’s keep it on the down low, nothing flashy. Nothing noble about it.

  3. Another falling-out among thieves.

    1. The “extravagent expenditure” thing is quite the ruse – the whole program is garbage. Who said anything about “fleet vehicles” anyway? There’s a convenient excuse. Now… if this cop was hooked into a DEA operation, they’ve done far worse with our tax dollars and DOJ would have never blinked. DC logic is so sick… the cops offense is twofold: he wasn’t high enough on the food chain, and [worse] he made a program look bad. Can’t have congress asking questions and threatening to end this little honey pot, now can we? I wish it was possible to hit government to government corruption of this caliber with a RICO case, but that’s effectively outlawed for now: the Whistleblower Protection Act of 2012 specifically took away protections from government employees, so… where will the evidence of corruption come from now? Government employees who know what’s going on will get fired and may face jail time the moment they open their beak – I think we have enough non disclosure agreements on file to go to the moon and back already, and half of them never had a real national security interest as their purpose to begin with. Obama abuse the hell out of NDA’s; it’s one of the things Trump might look at if he’s serious about “draining the swamp”.

  4. Send it back and get a perfectly normal and completely acceptable MRAP, dirtbag.

  5. Sessions said. “We will continue to encourage civil asset forfeiture whenever appropriate in order to hit organized crime in the wallet.”

    Say what you will about Trump, but Sessions is still by far the worst thing he’s done.

  6. We have a local speed trap that buys them with ticket money

  7. “The sheriff’s office defended the claim. It said that, in addition to driving the car to and from work, Conway uses it “when ********he************ participates in field operations, covert and otherwise, with our deputies.”” (emphasis added).

    It’s good to be the king.

    1. I wanna go become the sheriff in some nutbag place like San Francisco or Seattle or Portland. Then, I’m gonna use asset forfeiture and speed trap money to buy myself an H1 to drive to and from work. Or, better yet, a Freightliner P4XL.

    2. It almost reminds me of the DoD guy that defend the $1,000 wrench by saying. Not only can you take the bolt off, you can use it to put one on too.

      1. Are you crazy? You NEVER use the taking off wrench as a putting on wrench!

      2. What did you expect him to say? “That is how we fund black projects, you idiot. Do you work for Ivan?”

    3. Who would have thought a $70k muscle car would be perfect when working undercover and you didn’t want to be noticed?

      1. Admittedly it would be good for impersonating a drug dealer.


        Every idiot in the county would know all about it the next day.

        1. I dunno, there are lots of dumb drug dealers out there. Once local cop in my town spent years doing undercover drug busts. Based on personal interaction with the guy, he’s a hopeless idiot. So, anybody he managed to bust must be a complete moron.

      2. We had an old POS Chevy S10 with Mexican tags. That’s how you go unnoticed. Hell, even in my normal patrol people thought I was with maintenance. Had a white Chevy 1500 with a tool box. Extravagant spending didn’t really exist for us.

  8. In order to effectively abuse the fourth amendment, you need federal help.
    Federal help comes with strings.
    Life’s a bitch, ain’t it?

  9. Not that I support asset forfeiture, but cops buying high-powered Mopars for use as police interceptors isn’t exactly a new phenomenon.

    1. That’s what I was thinking. But the Sheriff didn’t call it that.

      Usually more of a state police thing.

      1. I’m sure the Sheriff will retroactively declare it a ‘Pursuit Special’.

  10. So when the federal government doles out money, local communities use it to by stupid things???

    I think we need to raise taxes and seize more stuff.

    1. Make it stop… the federal government has arrived [on balance] at being a clearinghouse for fraud. The dividing line isn’t exactly clear, but it seems to coincide with the arrival of frequent omnibus bills and the abandonment of regular order to arrive at a budget.

  11. We’re going to have restrictions on how thieving cops spend their stolen money now?

  12. This new already came out in the AJC back in June and there has been a big stink about this.

    Clearly the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department has too much money.

    I have already complained about this and said that the Sheriff needs to purchase a standard sheriff car model like everyone else.

    Gwinnett County has a bunch of Democrats hiding as Republican to get elected. This county went for Hillary.

  13. I’m positive that tint is illegal.

    1. Who’s gonna give him a ticket?

      1. No one…they can’t catch him.

  14. I would have gone for a Mustang Shelby GT500.

    Plus those Dodge cars are made in Canada and I heard we are in some kind of war with them.

  15. I did hear of a smarty ass rich millennial who was pursued and caught while trying to cruise across rural Texas at 150+ mph. The sheriff who caught him added aftermarket parts to his department cruiser as a hobby. A lot of pricey toys can hit extravagant speeds anymore, but it takes NASCAR magic-knowledge to keep it up for hours. I knew other rural cops with permanently assigned patrol cars who might mess around with superchargers or even a nitro kit. After all, when you have to be in a car all day, it might as well be fun.

    BTW, when it came time to turn in the clapped-out cars for new ones (or just to retire) the officers would put the original parts back in the department vehicle and keep the high performance parts.

  16. Equitable Sharing Program? This isn’t quite as dumb as what Eric Holder put in place to keep a budding young lunatic off the radar in Florida and purposefully breaking the gun purchase background check system, but it’s still mighty offensive. I’d rather the cop keep the car IF the architects of this mechanism for legal theft/distribution of ill gotten goods did jail time. The cop is getting pinched because it makes the program look bad. Well… it IS bad – the whole damn thing. There’s a far greater damage in allowing ESP to continue than this one off illustration of just how bad the program is to our liberties. The nation is still reeling from Nixon’s bad calculus that downgraded much of the bill of rights.

  17. It’s the last of the V-8 interceptors!

  18. perfect example of why I just shrug my shoulders and say ” so what ” when a cop is shot in the face

  19. What in hell do you expect? REALITY CHECK!: “Because they are all ultimately funded via both direct and indirect theft [i.e.taxes], and counterfeiting [central bank monopolies], all governments are essentially, at their very cores, 100% corrupt criminal scams, which cannot be “reformed”, “improved”, or “limited” in scope, simply because of their innate criminal nature.”

    Regards, onebornfree

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