The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) falls under the Department of Justice and is the arm of that department that deals with the illegal drug trade and is charged with bringing the individuals and groups responsible to justice. This includes both the conviction of those found to have participated in the drug business as well as setting up policies and laws that deter future individuals from getting involved in the illegal activity in the first place.
The process of cash seizure involves the taking of money by the DEA in order to remove some of that financial appeal to those considering criminal drug activities. In large part, the agency has pursued the policy of asset forfeiture, which includes cash as well as other financial assets that can be attributed to the illegal drug trade, and those items become the property of the U.S. government.
Asset Forfeiture Program
The Department of Justice has taken the approach of ensuring that criminals who obtain money and assets through the moneys they get from illegal activities will not retain those objects after conviction. The program, called the Asset Forfeiture Program, is of high importance in the agency’s attempts to remove some of the material appeal of illegal drug operations. By targeting the financial infrastructure of these criminal organizations throughout the world, the agency is able to bring about chaos and instability to the very people benefitting from keeping those supply chains open.
According to the website of the U.S. Marshals, who manage the assets being seized and distributed, their status for 2013 is:
- $2.4 billion in assets managed by the U.S. Marshals Service
- $23.122 assets being managed by the U.S. Marshals Service
- $616 million shared with state and local law enforcement agencies in 2012
- $1.5 billion distributed to victims of crime and claimants in 2012
- $5.8 billion in equitable sharing proceeds distributed since 1985
Examples of Cash Seizures
In October of 2012, the DEA New York field division seized over $31 million from bank accounts of the Sanchez-Paredes DTO (drug trafficking organization). They have been under investigation by law enforcement for the last 30 years. The authorities in Peru froze three bank accounts there as well as nine accounts located in the United States.
This group’s activities used shell companies to launder narcotics money that they made from a large international cocaine operation. This demonstrates how the DEA is aiming to eliminate a large portion of the financial gain associated from the illegal drug market to reduce the appeal of financial gain many times associated with this criminal activity.
Another sizable cash seizure occurred a few years ago in Mexico, in a case worked jointly between the DEA and Mexican agencies. They uncovered a drug operation and were able to find the location of their cash “stash” which was in a suburban bedroom of a house. In that bedroom, the agents found $205.6 million in U.S. currency, along with many other financial assets and weapons.
This is considered the largest drug-cash seizure in history by the DEA. In addition to the piles and piles of dollars, there were 200,000 euros and 157,500 pesos, as well as luxury cars and a pill making machine. This criminal drug distribution ring had been in operation since 2004 and run by a Chinese native who was able to obtain Mexican citizenship.
As part of the ongoing war against illegal drug activity, the DEA working under the Department of Justice, is continually trying to uncover those criminals involved in bringing drugs and crime onto our streets. and punish them for their crimes. This attempt to find them and deter others from joining the activities is the main mission of the DEA.
Asset forfeiture, including but not limited to cash seizure, is one of the primary tools they have to bring about that desired end. Another benefit to society of these DEA seizures is that the seized items are then sold and the proceeds are distributed to both the local governments that provided financial resources to the investigation and the victims of the activity of these drug trafficking operations.