According to the Justice Department press release, the district’s Asset Recovery and Victims’ Rights Division recovered $19,233,234 in forfeited assets last year.
Three U.S.-based real estate firms have agreed to turn over more than $50 million to the federal government to resolve allegations claiming they accepted narcotics proceeds through an underground exchange market.
According to the Department of Justice news release, Sefira Capital and more than 30 of its subsidiaries allegedly accepted millions of dollars in drug money laundered through the Black Market Peso Exchange, which it then reinvested in various real estate ventures.
A judge is scheduled to hear arguments this week on whether the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) should return assets its agents seized when they executed a search warrant at the home of former Florida Department of Health data analyst Rebekah Jones.
The data analyst drew national attention last year after she accused Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration of manipulating data about the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state. She told the press she was fired in May 2020 after she refused to alter the numbers to suggest the state was ready to ease lockdown restrictions.
The issue of confiscated cash and property by US law enforcement agencies has been a top concern in recent years. Organizations like The Institute of Justice based in Virginia work to protect the rights of citizens affected by unfettered civil asset forfeiture now known as policing for profit. The Institute has represented small business owners who have had funds and property taken by police even though no charges were filed or no crime was ever committed.
Some of these funds confiscated through civil asset forfeiture were eventually returned, but many have never been recovered. Once disbursed to either state or federal agencies, watchdog organizations have found it nearly impossible to locate the assets again. Many are now asking why this practice exists at all and why it is still so pervasive.
Police in Florida seized nearly $266 million in cash, homes, vehicles, and other property using forfeiture actions in 2018, more than any other state, according to a new report published by the Institute for Justice.
A majority of the seizures are from civil asset forfeiture, a tool that allows law enforcement to take cash or property they believe was involved in a crime, even if the owner is never charged.
According to the Institute of Justice report, Florida law enforcement agencies collected $246 million through forfeiture actions and almost $20 million through federal equitable sharing programs in 2018, making it a leader in property seizures in the nation. For comparison, larger states like California and Texas collected an estimated $139 million and $90 million, respectively.