Southern District collects more than $3M in asset forfeiture in FY19

The Southern District of Indiana collected more than $10 million from criminal and civil actions and asset forfeitures in fiscal year 2019, with more than $3 million collected through asset forfeitures.

Southern District U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler announced the FY19 collections totals last week. The funds were collected through the Asset Recovery Unit, which includes the Financial Litigation Unit and the Asset Forfeiture Unit.

Of the $10,176,838 collected in FY19, $3,301,695 came from asset forfeitures. Criminal actions accounted for $5,115,032, while civil actions accounted for $1,760,111.

Additionally, collaboration with other U.S. Attorney offices and the Department of Justice led to the collection of $7,422.73 – $6,405.75 from criminal actions and $1,016.98 from civil actions.

“In addition to prosecuting criminals, defending government agencies, and providing civil enforcement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is responsible for collecting debts owed to the government and victims of crime,” Minkler said in a statement. “The goal of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is to make crime victims whole again.”

Total collections in fiscal year 2018 were notably higher than in FY19, with the Southern District Attorney’s Office bringing in about $50.3 million in FY18. The stark difference between the two years is attributable to a civil settlement in FY18, a spokeswoman for Minkler’s office said.

According to the spokeswoman, the Asset Forfeiture Unit collected $8,174,204 in forfeited crime assets in FY18. The Financial Litigation Unit, however, collected a total of $42,148,992, with the bulk – $37,757,916 – coming in through civil collections.

According to the USAO, the Financial Litigation Unit is responsible for collecting civil and criminal debts owed to the federal government and federal crime victims.

On the state level, civil asset forfeiture has been a buzzword in the Indiana courts and Legislature, with major civil forfeiture reform coming out of the General Assembly in 2018. But even the amended civil forfeiture scheme was subject to an ultimately unsuccessful court challenge, with the Indiana Supreme Court upholding a forfeiture disbursement process that diverts some of the proceeds to law enforcement.

Meanwhile, the United States Supreme Court ruled last February that the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause is applicable to the states. The ruling in Timbs v. Indiana, a forfeiture action out of Grant County, likewise held that because civil in rem forfeiture is at least partially punitive, it is subject to the Excessive Fines Clause.

Timbs was remanded to the Indiana Supreme Court, which remanded the case to the trial court for an excessiveness analysis.

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