Free Minds & Free Markets

The Feds Are Just 'Safeguarding' Money Seized Through Asset Forfeiture and Civil Fines

U.S. prosecutors in Northern Georgia alone helped collect millions in asset forfeiture actions, civil and criminal fines last year.

John Lund Blend Images/NewscomJohn Lund Blend Images/NewscomA single U.S. Attorney's Office collected nearly $136 million from civil and criminal cases last year, and it also helped seize more than $154 million in asset forfeiture actions. It's framing its looting as a way to give back to U.S. taxpayers.

In a Tuesday press release, the Northern District of Georgia office—one of 93 of its kind—touted its taking of $135,962,250.57 "in civil and criminal actions for U.S. taxpayers" (emphasis mine) in fiscal year 2017, a period that extends from October 2016 through last September.

But the money was actually taken from U.S. taxpayers, to give to the federal government.

Some of this was warranted, as with the cases recovering money from federal-grant fraudsters and from folks defrauding the federal food assistance program.

Yet just $11.4 million of the money collected in Georgia's Northern District came from criminal actions. The other $124.5 million came from fines and fees in civil cases.

The office also helped other Justice Department entities pursue $196,384,969 in criminal and civil actions, of which just $16,593—far less than one percent—stemmed from the criminal cases.

And let's be clear: "Criminal case" doesn't necessarily mean the fines or forfeiture were fair. A lot of Northern Georgia's criminal cases last year involved nonviolent drug or gun charges.

In addition to all of the above, the office helped seize $154,081,713 "as a result of asset forfeiture actions" undertaken with partner agencies.

"Each day we safeguard taxpayer dollars," said U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak about the money.

He must have a funny definition of "safeguard."

While only a few U.S. Attorney's Offices have publicized their 2017 money collecting, those that do present similarly staggering numbers:

  • The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California collected over $65.3 million in criminal and civil actions and helped seize around $9.2 million in asset forfeiture actions.
  • The Vermont U.S. Attorney's Office collected or helped collect more than $160.6 million in civil and criminal actions and aided in seizing $212,691 in asset forfeiture actions.
  • U.S. prosecutors in Maine collected more than $2.7 million in criminal actions and $577,291 in civil actions, and they helped seize $915,194 in asset forfeiture actions.

Overall, the Justice Department collected more than $15 billion in civil and criminal actions in fiscal year 2017.

Photo Credit: John Lund Blend Images/Newscom

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 or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Via asset forfeiture?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    More like ass etc. forfeiture.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    BREAKING NEWS: Attorneys tend to weasel wording.

  • ||

    The other $124.5 million came from fines and fees in civil cases.

    That's a whole lot of homeless trannies being held on $500 bail.

  • some guy||

    I'm sure this office went up the chain during budget season and said they didn't need any appropriations for the next fiscal year because they already had their operating expenses covered for the foreseeable future, right?

  • Ecoli||

    This is an easy problem to solve: Simply require that all assets seized by the government (local, state, federal, whatever) be rebated proportionally to taxpayers. Nothing goes to the government at all.

    Asset seizures would fall off a cliff if that happened.

  • ||

    Asset seizures would fall off a cliff if that happened.

    Bull. The few-and-far-between, federally-subpoenaed books would be routed through the NSA so that they can sincerely regret losing them.

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    Nope because then you would have even more people calling for a check they didn't earn.

  • p3orion||

    We already have the tax system taking money from citizens to redistribute to other citizens. Do we need to encourage the justice system to do so as well?

  • DevilDog943||

    "Each day we safeguard taxpayer dollars," said U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak about the money.

    "Safeguard"; govspeak for steal from citizens. Asset forfeiture, at all levels, should only take place AFTER a criminal conviction, not when a mere allegation is made.


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online