News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 19, 2009
Contact: Joanna Zoltay
Number: 312-886-2597

Indianapolis Metro Police Department Receives More Than $900,000
in Seized Asset Funds

FEB 19-- (Indianapolis) Timothy M. Morrison, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, and Dennis Wichern, ASAC, Drug Enforcement Administration, along with Alvin Patton, SAC- IRS, Dan Dill, Resident Agent in Charge, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Chief Michael Spears of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) announced today that the IMPD received $947,692.40 in asset forfeiture funds from the United States Department of the Treasury. The Federal Bureau of Investigation also participated in the investigation. The money which was electronically transferred to the city on Friday, February 6, 2009, represents IMPD’s share of forfeited assets seized from an international drug trafficking ring.

Other than the large amount of money involved, this forfeiture would seem routine. It was a cooperative multi-law enforcement effort that resulted in the forfeiture. However, the case agents for all the federal agencies have long since retired.

“The sharing of $947, 692.40 represents years of tireless work by our law enforcement counterparts in the IMPD and the other agencies involved in taking down this major marijuana distribution organization,” stated Gary G. Olenkiewicz, DEA’s Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Field Division which covers Indiana. “Although none of us here today were present at the time of the original investigation, it is a testament to the dedicated agents and officers that their hard work has paid off.”

The case started in the mid-1980's. The original investigative team was comprised of one agent/officer from each participating agency, each working full-time on the case. The investigation uncovered and dismantled a worldwide marijuana drug trafficking organization that had been in operation since the mid 1970s and reached to Colombia, South America, and as far away as Thailand. Stash houses were located in Florida, Texas, Washington, Indiana, New York and Massachusetts. Marijuana deliveries totaling 20,000 pounds were not uncommon and investigators were able to document routine money transfers in excess of $500,000. The drug organization commonly used tractor trailers and recreational vehicles to transport the drugs across the country. This investigation remains the single largest marijuana case ever uncovered in the State of Indiana.

In November, 1987, more than 30 defendants were charged by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Indiana with more than 50 offenses. One of the defendants in 1985 alone was involved in the importation and distribution of about 75 tons of marijuana, which generated proceeds of approximately 50 million dollars. The defendant was a fugitive for nearly ten years and was eventually arrested and in 1997. He pled guilty to one count of the 1987 indictment, which charged him with a continuing criminal enterprise, as well as pleading guilty to the charge alleged in a separate information concerning a money laundering offense that occurred in North Carolina, and an escape offense that had been charged in yet another case in the Northern District of Florida.

The defendant had amassed approximately $3 million dollars of drug trafficking proceeds deposited in various banks in the Principality of Liechtenstein, which is a tiny country of about 35,000, located in Europe between Switzerland and Austria. Despite having an area about one-fourth the size of Marion County, Liechtenstein has 15 banks who observe strict bank-client secrecy and hold trillions of dollars in assets.

As part of his plea agreement, the defendant pledged to help the government forfeit approximately $3 million. However, he reneged and for the next ten to eleven years, the United States was forced to litigate with this defendant, in the Liechtenstein courts and in the District Court in Indiana in an effort to enforce the agreement and forfeit the $3 million. All the while the defendant has remained in federal custody.

While this litigation was pending, the attacks of September 11, 2001, occurred. Subsequently, Congress passed the Patriot Act was passed which added a provision to federal forfeiture law that allows the United States to seize money through a bank in the United States, when its correspondent, foreign bank is holding forfeitable proceeds. Making use of this new forfeiture tool, the government filed a new forfeiture complaint, naming as the defendant money belonging to the Liechtenstein banks that was deposited in correspondent American bank accounts. After two more years of litigation with the defendant and discussions with the Liechtenstein banks, the three million dollars was finally forfeited to the United States. Due to IMPD’s hard work and support on this case, the U.S. Department of the Treasury approved sharing 30% of the money with IMPD.