Maintenance and Disposal of Seized and Forfeited Assets
in Selected Western Districts
Report No. 02-07
Office of the Inspector General
The Attorney General's Guidelines on Seized and Forfeited Property 1 (Guidelines) state that:
The [DOJ] asset forfeiture program has three primary goals: (1) to punish and deter criminal activity by depriving criminals of property used or acquired through illegal activities; (2) to enhance cooperation among foreign, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies through the equitable sharing of assets recovered through this program; and, as a by-product, (3) to produce revenues to enhance forfeitures and strengthen law enforcement.
The Guidelines also state that "the integrity of the entire forfeiture program depends upon the faithful stewardship of forfeited property and the proceeds thereof." This stewardship is exercised through the USMS, which has primary responsibility for the maintenance and disposal of seized and forfeited property. Our audit was designed to test USMS performance of its responsibilities with regard to selected categories of assets at certain locations.
We initiated the audit as part of our continuing responsibility for oversight of a program that has been listed by the Comptroller General as a high-risk area since 1990. Our office and the General Accounting Office (GAO) have issued numerous audit reports critical of USMS management of seized and forfeited assets. 2 Recently, however, both GAO and the independent auditors who performed the financial statement audits for DOJ have issued more favorable reports. 3
We designed our audit to examine the current practices of the USMS and follow up on key issues from prior audit reports. Of particular concern was the management of seized and forfeited vehicles in San Diego, CA. Because of the numerous findings in our 1994 report, we considered it necessary to include San Diego in the sites for our current review and to examine the current practices with regard to vehicles in that district. We also performed audit work at Las Vegas, NV, and three sites in the District of Arizona. 4
We tested the following asset categories at each location: vehicles, vessels, cash/currency, and financial instruments. We also tested jewelry but only at a nationwide auction held in Las Vegas. On a national basis the assets in these categories were valued at $696,081,000, or more than 85 percent of the dollar value of all asset categories in USMS custody at the end of fiscal year (FY) 2000.
DOLLAR VALUE OF ASSETS IN CUSTODY AT SEPTEMBER 30, 2000
Source: OIG Analysis of Data from JMD Asset Forfeiture Management Section