CASH FROM DRUG BUST TO HELP FIGHT CRIME IN BRADLEY COUNTY
CHATTANOOGA - Bradley County's sheriff has big crime-fighting plans
for $1.1 million forfeited to the county from a traffic stop by drug
Joe Bartlett, the state Department of Safety's managing attorney for
asset forfeiture, described the $1.1 million as the largest haul of
forfeited drug cash he could recall for a local government in Tennessee.
For the first time Monday, Sheriff Daniel Gilley talked about the
rural county getting the cash that officers found in a sport utility
vehicle during a Jan. 12 stop on Interstate 75.
Gilley said he delayed discussing any spending plans until after a
court deadline for anyone to claim the cash, some of it found in
vacuum-sealed bags stuffed in door compartments.
"I didn't want to jinx it," Gilley said in a telephone interview.
He said the cash was "now official property" of Bradley County, which
has an annual budget of about $5 million for law enforcement.
Officers previously said they received permission to search the car
when they noticed Ezequial Guzman, a 23-year-old illegal immigrant
with a California address, acting nervously and being evasive.
Guzman, now in custody awaiting sentencing Aug. 9 on a plea in the
cash-smuggling case, told officers the money was from a marijuana
transaction and was being taken from New York to Mexico. No drugs were
found in the car.
Gilley said a big chunk of the money would be matched with federal
homeland security dollars to "expand our forensics lab and facility."
The sheriff said the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation closed a lab in
Chattanooga a few years ago due to budget cuts. He said blood
analysis, processing drugs and other materials causes long delays in
taking criminal cases to court.
Gilley said the department's largest previous haul of forfeited drug
assets was $280,000 in 1984. That money helped start a fund that has
supported drug enforcement.
Bartlett also said forfeited cash totaling about $12 million and
vehicles with a value of another $10 million are returned each year to
law enforcement agencies in Tennessee.
Forfeited money from cases involving federal agents is shared with the