United States Forfeits $304,050 And A G-35 Infiniti as Drug Proceeds
January 21, 2014
Fort Myers, Florida, – U.S. District Judge John E. Steele last week forfeited $304,050.00 in United States Currency and a G-35 Infiniti to the United States, as traceable proceeds of illegal drug activity.
According to court documents, the $304,050 was found hidden within the tires of a salvaged G-35 Infiniti that was being transported on Interstate 75. The currency, mostly $20 bills, was bundled inside the tires, in heat-sealed packaging. The Infiniti, which was also equipped with a hidden after-market GPS transponder, allowing it to be remotely monitored, had been loaded onto a car-hauler in New Jersey. The car was scheduled to be delivered to an address in Miami, which Homeland Security Investigations special agents later determined to be non-existent.
The United States commenced a civil forfeiture action against the property, alleging that it was the proceeds of drug trafficking. An individual (Johnny A. Melo) came forward to contest the forfeiture, asserting that the seized money was the proceeds of his Miami-based business, “Images Windows and Doors,” not drug proceeds. Following his conviction in the Southern District of Florida for a federal narcotics offense, aggravated identity theft and related criminal offenses, he abruptly abandoned his claim.
In the Middle District of Florida, enforcement of asset forfeiture laws is an integral part of our law enforcement mission. Taking the profit out of crime is important in disrupting and dismantling illegal enterprises, deterring crime, funding law enforcement efforts, and restoring property to victims. In fiscal year 2013, more than $46.2 million in criminal and civil forfeitures was deposited into the Department of Justice and Department of Treasury Assets Forfeiture Funds as a result of forfeitures completed in the Middle District of Florida.
“This case is yet another example of the outstanding work done by both our law enforcement partners and the attorneys in our Asset Recovery and Victims Rights Division,” said Acting U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III.
This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with support from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of General Counsel, and the Florida Department of Transportation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys David G. Lazarus and Bonnie Glober.