U.S. Attorney's Office Collects Nearly $13.9 Million
BOISE – United States Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced today that her office's Financial Litigation Unit collected $1,219,912 in fines, assessments, and restitution, and $10,559,832 in civil debts for the fiscal year that ended September 30, 2011. In addition, the Asset Forfeiture Unit collected approximately $2,110,400 of proceeds of crime from convicted criminals.
“The nearly $13.9 million our staff collected through civil debts, asset forfeiture and fines, assessments and restitution – a 30% increase over fiscal year 2010 – is more than double the U.S. Attorney's Office's operational budget,” said Olson. “It is a tribute to the tireless, persistent efforts of our Financial Litigation and Asset Forfeiture Units that they bring more money in than it costs for us to do our work in the District of Idaho. I am proud of the attorneys, paralegals, collection agents, and financial analysts whose hard work benefits taxpayers, crime victims and the public.”
The Financial Litigation Unit collects civil penalties for violations of regulations involving, among other things, controlled substances, environmental protection, and aviation safety. It also collects civil debts for defaulted student loans and defaulted federally-financed mortgages. During fiscal year 2011, the office collected over $9,290,952 on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency for clean-up costs. Of that, $6.75 million was collected from Atlantic Richfield Company to resolve allegations that Atlantic Richfield and its predecessor, Anaconda Company, were liable under CERCLA for response costs and natural resources damages relating to releases of hazardous substances at or from the Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Complex Superfund Site (Bunker Hill Site) in northern Idaho.
From convicted criminals, the U.S. Attorney's Office collects fines, assessments, restitution, and asset forfeitures. The Financial Litigation Unit also pursues reimbursement from those who have fraudulently obtained payments from government contracts and programs such as Medicare. The federal government provides approximately 70% of Medicaid funds for the State of Idaho. More than $42,288 of fraudulently-obtained Medicaid reimbursements was collected during the fiscal year, including $35,000 from an Idaho dentist and an Idaho pharmacy for failing to keep proper distribution records for controlled pharmaceuticals.
Victims of crime receive funds collected in criminal restitution cases. Other criminal collections go into the Crime Victims Fund. From there, funds are distributed to the Idaho Crime Victims Compensation Program, the Idaho Council on Domestic Violence and Victim Assistance, and similar programs across the country. Asset forfeitures are distributed to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to help fight crime. Other recoveries go back to agency creditors.
In February 2011, the U.S. Attorney's Office collected over $1.4 million from the WBW, LLC bankruptcy estate. The assets collected satisfy a 2002 judgment and tax liens against Idahoans Virgil and Phyllis Jahnke, as well as criminal restitution owed by WBW's sole owner, Melvin Heide. Of that sum, over $300,000 will go to victims of fraud for which Heide was convicted in 1992.
Together, the Financial Litigation and Asset Forfeiture Units work with the attorneys in the Civil and Criminal Divisions to maximize collections. “Their persistence and ingenuity has given the United States Attorney's Office an excellent track record on debt collection,” Olson added. “Through the U.S. Department of Justice's equitable sharing program, some asset forfeiture funds are distributed to state and local agencies that assisted in the criminal cases that resulted in the forfeiture. For example, in April 2011, the Idaho State Police received $456,445 for its participation in the investigation of a north Idaho coin dealer convicted of narcotics trafficking.”
Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is a collaborative effort by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and communities to prevent and deter gun violence.