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By Alfa, Jul 5, 2004 | |
  1. Alfa

    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

    federal government.


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