Maintenance and Disposal of Seized and Forfeited Assets
in Selected Western Districts

Report No. 02-07
March 2002
Office of the Inspector General



We reviewed laws, regulations, and guidelines relating to the maintenance and disposal of seized and forfeited assets, and we reviewed the reports of audits performed since we issued our report, United States Marshals Service Maintenance and Disposal of Seized Assets, 94-14, March 1994. Our audit purpose was to examine current USMS practices and to follow up on significant findings from prior audits conducted by our office and others.

Since 1990, the Comptroller General of the United States has designated the DOJ asset forfeiture program as a high-risk area. 14 Recent audits, however, have found significant improvements in the USMS management of seized and forfeited assets. For example, after testing several asset categories at four USMS districts, GAO issued a report in 1999 that described only relatively minor discrepancies in the CATS database.

We conducted audit work at USMS Headquarters in Washington, DC, and at the District Offices in Las Vegas, NV; San Diego, CA; and, Phoenix, AZ. We also performed testing at the suboffices in Tucson and Yuma, AZ.

We selected the following categories for testing: vehicles, vessels, cash/currency, financial instruments, and jewelry. At the end of fiscal year 2000, these categories accounted for more than 85 percent of the dollar value of all seized and forfeited assets in USMS custody.

We performed our audit in accordance with the Government Auditing Standards issued by the Comptroller General of the United States and, accordingly, included such tests of records and procedures as we considered necessary. The scope of our audit included a review of current USMS practices and testing of selected assets on hand at the time of our visit to each location (generally between March and June 2001).

The techniques used for asset sample selection for testing included statistical sampling, judgmental sampling, and 100 percent review. We employed statistical sampling for: seized vehicles in San Diego, Tucson, and Yuma; forfeited vehicles in San Diego; cash/currency in San Diego; and, cash/currency and financial instruments in Phoenix. 15 In each instance, we performed statistical sampling because the universe of each asset category at the given locations was sufficient to make such sampling practical. The statistical sampling designs and the test results enabled us to state with 95 percent confidence that the error rate, if any, at the locations tested would not exceed 5 percent of the assets in the applicable universe. However, it is important to note that the results of our statistic sampling cannot be projected to any other USMS office or to the USMS as a whole.

We judgmentally selected certain additional assets to those selected using statistical sampling so that we could ensure that all high-value assets were tested. The judgmentally selected assets included vehicles valued at $30,000 or more; in San Diego we selected cash/currency and financial instrument assets valued at $100,000 or more. We also judgmentally selected certain unusual items, such as foreign currency, that in our view merited examination.

We reviewed 100 percent of assets wherever the universe at a given location was small enough to enable us to test all of them.

In performing our audit, we used data contained in CATS to identify assets on hand and to select samples for testing. We did not audit CATS or establish the reliability of data contained in the CATS database as a whole; however, when the data used are viewed in context with other available evidence, we believe the opinions and conclusions contained in this report are valid.


  1. ASSET FORFEITURE: Marshals Service Controls Over Seized Assets, GAO/GGD-99-41, p. 1.

  2. In the District of Arizona, we combined cash/currency and financial instruments into one universe for audit purposes.