On the morning of January 22, 2018, Anthony Gambino was driving on I-95 just south of Dock Junction, Georgia heading towards Florida when he was pulled over for speeding. According to court documents, when Camden County Sheriff’s Deputy Jim Kelly spoke to Gambino, Gambino “appeared nervous, fidgety, apologetic, and talkative.”
Gambino showed Deputy Kelly his New York drivers’ license, a license which Kelly verified had been suspended. Kelly let Gambino know that, since he was driving on a suspended license, he would be taken to county jail. Gambino let Deputy Kelly know he had a duffel back containing $55,000 with him in the car. Once Gambino was locked in the back of the police car, Deputy Kelly called for backup.
Investigation showed that the bag contained $59,260. Although ultimately Gambino was not charged with any crime, police seized his cash. They were able to take the money using a procedure known as civil asset forfeiture. This is a legal process where law enforcement is able to take possession of an individual’s money or property if it is suspected of being involved in a crime.
In Georgia, law enforcement only has to prove by “a preponderance of the evidence” that property or cash is involved in a crime. This is far below the level of proof required during criminal cases—“beyond a reasonable doubt.” Since law enforcement in the state may keep up to 100 percent of the proceeds from forfeitures, critics argue police have an incentive to carry out forfeitures. This is known as “policing for profit.”
When Lieutenant Cedric Brown arrived with a narcotics detection dog, the dog identified traces of drugs in the driver’s side door—a search by officers showed a marijuana grinder concealed here. Later, at the sheriff’s office, the dog identified narcotics on the duffel bag.
Questioned about his background, Gambino gave different accounts of his past. He initially let Deputy Kelly know he was moving to Florida after he recently got out of the army. He later told another officer that he had left the army six years earlier. A later investigation showed both of these were untrue. Gambino had been arrested by the U.S. Army in 2006 for “wrongful use of cocaine and hallucinogens.” He had been court-martialed and incarcerated for eight months and was discharged for “bad conduct.”
Law enforcement used Gambino’s listless behavior when he first spoke with Deputy Kelly together with the evidence from the narcotics dog and his background in the military to show there was “a preponderance of the evidence” which would enable them to seize the money.
Gambino stated that up to $20,000 was his money—he had obtained it, he said, from pawning jewelry in New York City. The other $40,000 Gambino said had been given as a gift by Richie Faver, someone Gambino variously referred to as his cousin or his friend.
Faver filed a claim for the money, but in December 2018, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia Brunswick Division determined that Faver’s claim “lacked standing.” In April 2019, the court ruled that “the United States is entitled to summary judgment and forfeiture of the Defendant Currency.” As a result, then, even though he was never charged with any crime, Gambino lost all his money.
Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney
If your lawful property has been seized, then you should hire a lawyer. Contact us to set up a free initial consultation and work with one of Florida’s most experienced civil forfeiture defense attorneys.