By Alfa · Jun 14, 2005 ·
  1. Alfa

    RIDGELAND -- The Ridgeland Police Department is more than $500,000 richer.

    The department on Friday received its share of nearly $640,000 seized during a traffic stop on Interstate 95 in 2004. A check for $511,635 was handed over by agents from the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration. The $640,000 went to the government after Paul Andres Marin, 31, of Miami was pulled over by a Ridgeland police officer on Sept.

    22, 2004, for speeding. Marin later pleaded guilty to money laundering, authorities said.

    While no drugs were found in Marin's car, John Ozaluk, assistant special agent in charge of the administration's Columbia office, said the cash was "drug money."

    While million-dollar seizures on I-95 aren't uncommon, Ozaluk said this was the largest seizure in the county's history to his knowledge.

    The federal government keeps 20 percent of money seized across the country and places it in an asset forfeiture account. That money is used by agencies nationwide in the upkeep of property, including dockage fees for seized cargo freighters or maintenance of homes while cases are in court.

    Police Chief Richard Woods said his department has received $1 million from such forfeitures since September 2003. Another $1.2 million is expected to come its way.

    The portion of money the Ridgeland police receive from the federal government goes into a fund for the department and can be used for nonbudgeted items it may need. In the past, that money has been used to pay for drug enforcement overtime, patrol cars, bullet-proof vests, other equipment, dogs and new air conditioning for the department, Woods said.

    Town officials said Friday that the money might be used to improve the department's building.

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