Sheriff’s Office awarded $3 million in asset forfeiture funds in 2016

The Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office raked in $3.02 million in federal asset forfeiture funds last year — more than any other agency in Virginia, more than in some large cities and entire states.

In fact, the Sheriff’s Office received more in fiscal 2016 than the next six top-awarded agencies in Virginia — including the Alexandria Police Department, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, Page County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police Department – combined. The total received for the entire state of Virginia agencies is $6.72 million, according to figures released by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office received more than what was awarded to West Virginia ($901,619), Alabama ($2.33 million) or Louisiana ($1.4 million). The Chicago Police Department received $2.76 million that year. The Kansas City Police Department received $748,933. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department received $1.67 million.

Sheriff Timothy C. Carter said in a recent interview that the asset forfeiture funds come from his office’s work with federal law enforcement agencies on investigations in and outside of the area. The amounts awarded don’t reflect the size of the agencies or their jurisdictions, Carter explained. Rather, the amount, which fluctuates from year to year, reflects the extent of the operation investigated.

“A criminal enterprise is run on assets,” Carter said. “So when you dismantle a criminal enterprise, if that enterprise is that expansive, that’s what you can expect.”

Carter’s office doesn’t usually receive such large awards in one fiscal year. The office received about $2 million some years ago but most awards amount to a few hundred thousand dollars at a time.

Carter credits his use of asset forfeiture funds as a way to cover law enforcement expenses without having to spend taxpayer funds. More recently, Carter has pushed for using these funds to pay for a new headquarters for his department.

The Sheriff’s Office has $5.75 million in asset forfeiture funds. Carter said that amount includes the $3.02 million awarded in fiscal 2016.  The county has obligated $338,089 of those funds to pay for vehicles, part of the salaries for school resource officers and training, he explained.

The majority of the asset awards came from the collaborative work the Sheriff’s Office did with federal authorities targeting untaxed cigarettes and the related money laundering cases, Carter said.

Authorities seized numerous pieces of property through the investigations, he added.

The U.S. Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program shared $305 million with participating local and state agencies in fiscal 2016, which ran from Oct. 1, 2015 to Sept. 30, 2016. The U.S. Marshals Service identifies and evaluates assets that represent the proceeds of crime, then manages and sells those assets seized and forfeited by the Department of Justice. Assets include real estate, commercial businesses, cash, vehicles, jewelry, art, antiques, collectibles and aircraft.

At A Glance

A sampling of what other police agencies received in asset forfeiture funds in 2016:

• Los Angeles (California) Police Department – $3.85 million

• Baltimore (Maryland) Police Department – $553,684

• Fort Wayne (Indiana) Police Department – $1.3 million

• Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department – $189,247

• Broward (Florida) Sheriff’s Office – $1.89 million

• North Miami Beach Police Department – $1.4 million

• Houston Police Department – $2.1 million

• Seattle Police Department – $1.09 million

– Source:  Department of Justice reports –