I’m out of the asset forfeiture business and Title-III wiretaps too”, Donnie remarked as we discussed the Drug Enforcement Administration’s on-going effort to find hidden assets related to drug trafficking and other crime.  Donnie had retired from the DEA after serving twenty-one years as a Special Agent.  Now he was deployed to the Green Zone in Iraq to teach Iraqi police through the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program of the Department of Justice.

Special Agents like Donnie often develop a great deal of expertise in conducting an asset search since asset forfeiture allows them to seize the proceeds of drug trafficking, money laundering, or organized crime.  For example, while Donnie had been stationed in El Paso Texas in 1988, (and also worked in Bolivia), he, another Special Agent, and the Mexican Federal Police seized $6-8 million in drug money.  By following the money trail, Donnie and his co-agent forfeited the $6-8 million because of its relation to their earlier seizure of 21 tons of cocaine in Sylmar, California.

My discussion with Donnie quickly drifted toward Zhenli Ye Gon’s arrest in Maryland on July 23, 2007 on methamphetamine drug and money laundering charges. Ye Gon was accused of supplying chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine through his pharmaceutical wholesale business based in Mexico City, Mexico.  According to a Special Agent’s affidavit, the more than $207 million seized from Ye Gon’s Mexico City residence was “hidden in various compartments, false walls, suitcases, and closets.”  Also seized from Ye Gon’s Mexico City corporate headquarters were $111,000 dollars; documents regarding domestic and offshore bank accounts; and wire transfer confirmations from Mexican money exchange houses to various banks.  As Ye Gon’s criminal indictment In the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia further indicated, the government sought to forfeit his money and other assets pursuant to 21 U.S.C. §§ 853 and 970.

Given all of the above, Donnie finally said: “Because of its impact on organized crime, asset forfeiture is one of the things that can stop those who supply pseudophedrine to the meth super labs and Mexican cartelsAsset forfeiture works so well that it has even become a kind of gold rush”.  I then thought about the $ 1,143,341,308 in net deposits for 2006 made into the Department of Justice’s Assets Forfeiture Fund— which is a repository for just some of the federal agencies that forfeit assets.

Copyright 2007 Fred L. Abrams