SEIZED MONEY UP FOR GRABS
In April, local and federal authorities seized $14,000 during a drug bust at Antonio Yellock's Burlington home.
He and girlfriend Valerie Enoch, who lived with him at 2303 Trail Five, were arrested on several drug charges.
Now, the government is giving someone a chance to claim that money.
The U.S. Attorney's Office ran an ad in the Times-News three times last month asking "any person claiming an interest in or right against" the property to file a claim.
Of course that doesn't mean anybody can come and say the money is theirs and walk away with bundles of 20's and 100's.
"It doesn't work that way," said Lynne Klauer, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Attorney's Office. "They have to show where the money came from." Her office advertises the existence of these funds to comply with federal statutes that deal with civil forfeiture actions.
Typically, she said, the claimant is the person from whom the money was seized. In addition to establishing a connection to the property, the person has to prove that the money was obtained by lawful means. Earnings records, tax returns, and other similar documents are usually all that is required to show that.
In this particular case, that might not be enough since investigators also found cocaine and marijuana in the house. The money, found in stacks in different denominations, was hidden in a hutch above the dresser and was identified by a drug sniffing dog as having traces of drugs. If nobody can make a valid claim for the money, the government gets it. Each year, local law enforcement agencies receive forfeiture money and properties from federal and county drug busts and other similar operations. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the government forfeited about $374 million in cash and assets in 2004.
The U.S. Middle District Court, of which Alamance County is part, forfeits roughly $4 million worth of assets in a given year, Klauer said. About 20 percent of funds forfeited are retained and used to cover the costs of forfeiture actions. The balance is shared with the law enforcement agencies that participated in the seizure.
"They can put a request and if they are the only requester they can get 80 percent back of those funds," Klauer explained.
She added that these funds are restricted, which means the money can only be used for specific purposes, like buying new equipment or starting education programs. However, if the case involves a victim, such as identity theft cases and bank robberies, 100 percent of the money goes to the victim's restitution fund. Klauer said that in investment fraud cases, forfeitures seek to get property away from the wrongdoers while the criminal process takes its course. Since these cases can be lengthy, these funds can be put toward restitution while the case is solved.
2006 The Times-News Publishing Company