Marijuana trade keeps Mendocino County a leader in asset forfeiture
In 2008, Mendocino County was once again in the top ranks for money seized through California asset forfeiture procedures. At $1,479,000, Mendocino County ranked third for value of assets settled, trailing only the more populous and perennial top forfeiture counties of Los Angeles at $8,176,000 and San Bernardino at $3,597,000. Nearby Humboldt County at $621,000 ranked 10th, while Lake County with only $2,000 ranked 48th among California counties.
The 2008 total cleared through the Mendocino County settlement process was less than the $1,746,000 settled here in 2007.
Asset seizures processed in state court require a higher level of proof than federal law requires. The state requires seized monies or property suspected to be the product of a criminal enterprise to be placed into a special holding account managed by the district attorney. These assets cannot be settled and distributed until the underlying case is settled.
For seized liquid assets up to $25,000 to be distributed, the asset owner must be convicted of a limited list of primarily drug related crimes. When assets greater than $25,000 are seized, the state requires proof in court "by clear and convincing evidence."
When law enforcement fails to meet the level of proof required, the assets must be returned.
In 2008, Mendocino County received $734,889 from cases initiated in 2007; $508,879 from cases beginning in 2008; and $231,973 from 2006 cases. The other cases settled in 2008 started in 2002 and yielded $3,699.
Mendocino County law enforcement agencies in 2008 seized a record $2,065,000 in assets topping the earlier high in 2006 of $1,902,000. Most of these cases are still winding their way through the court process.
In Mendocino County and across the state about 23 percent of the assets seized are returned when the related charges are either dropped or not proved.
The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office seized the lions' share of assets settled in 2008 with sole responsibility more than half the total with $742,000 and County of Mendocino Marijuana Eradication Team with $41,000. The Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force assisted with another $60,000 in seizures.
The MMCTF had the second largest individual total with $451,000 in solo seizures and assisted several other agencies with their cases.
The California Highway Patrol accounted for $32,000 in solo seizures and another $62,000 in joint operations with the MMCTF.
Willits police had $22,000 in solo seizures and no joint operations.
The Ukiah Police Department had $12,000 in solo seizures and $74,000 with MMCTF. Fort Bragg Police Department had no solo or joint seizures.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is Part 1 of a two-part story.
NEXT: Where the monies go.
By Linda Williams/TWN Staff Writer
Posted: 11/25/2009 07:17:44 AM PST