Feds share $8.9 million with local law enforcement

ALBANY—The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office received $471,239.39 in forfeited assets from a 2009 drug case.

The Sheriff’s Office is one of 33 law enforcement agencies that received a cut of the $12.5 million proceeds.

United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian announced the distribution of the $12,515,738—proceeds of assets seized in a marijuana distribution conspiracy–in a September 8 press release.

Of the total assets, $8,923,708 have been distributed to 33 law enforcement agencies in the Capitol District area and as far away as Illinois and California.

The remaining $3,592,029 went to the Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program. The primary mission of the program is to employ asset forfeiture powers in a manner that enhances public safety and security.

Asset forfeiture laws are intended to enable law enforcement agencies to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations and deprive them of their illegal profits.

“What started as a simple traffic stop in Illinois turned into a well-orchestrated, multi-state effort involving the collaboration of many agencies resulting in the sentencing of five drug traffickers and forfeiture of millions of dollars of assets.

“By attacking large scale drug trafficking organizations and stripping them of their ill-gotten profits, we make a hard-hitting impact, stopping the distribution of drugs and ensuring the safety of our communities.

“We are pleased to use our federal resources to provide these forfeited assets to our partner agencies,” U.S. Attorney Hartunian said in the release.

The case started June 13, 2009 when Illinois State Police found about 334 pounds of marijuana hidden in a car trailer during a routine traffic stop. The drugs were intended to be transported from California to upstate New York for distribution. Through a controlled delivery executed with the Albany Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Office, the delivery was completed, resulting in the arrest of three co-conspirators, Melissa Giove, Eric Canori and Robert Reinfurt and eventually two others, Pamela Grosch and Sara Shafer.

All five were later convicted in U.S. District Court for drug offenses.

At the time of his arrest, $1,473,543 in cash was seized from Mr. Canori’s Wilton residence, along with about 40 pounds of marijuana.

A subsequent search of a home in Ross, CA, rented by Mr. Canori, resulted in the seizure of an additional $688,660. Law enforcement agents were later provided with the locations of buried gold and silver bars and coins. One hundred seventy-two gold bars, 161 gold coins and a 100-ounce silver bar were recovered, forfeited and eventually auctioned.

Two pickup trucks and one trailer were also seized and forfeited.

As set forth below, agencies receiving a share of the $8,923,708.19 of forfeited assets include 20 local police departments, sheriff’s offices and district attorney’s offices, 4 New York State agencies and 1 federal agency. Additionally, four Illinois law enforcement agencies and four California law enforcement agencies shared in the distribution. All received a percentage of the shared assets because of their cooperative work on the case.

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