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Wednesday - May 18, 2005


WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH - United States Attorney Frank D. Whitney announced today the transfer of $455,711.06 in federally-forfeited funds to the Wrightsville Beach Police Department. The funds represent eighty percent (80%) of the net proceeds from the sale of a house and tract of land located at 6 Conch Lane, Wrightsville Beach, N. C. The real property was forfeited in a civil action filed by the United States Attorney in United States District Court on October 3, 2003. The action sought the forfeiture of the one-half undivided interest in the property owned by Sharon McLaughlin, due to her use of the property to facilitate drug trafficking.

The seizure of the property stemmed from a criminal investigation of Sharon McLaughlin by the Wrightsville Beach Police Department. After a search of the residence on April 12, 2003, McLaughlin was arrested and charged in state court with one count of maintaining a dwelling for the purpose of distributing drugs; two counts of simple possession of a Schedule II controlled substance; and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. She pled guilty and received home confinement for 6-8 months, followed by 12 months of unsupervised probation.

The forfeited funds were transferred to Wrightsville Beach pursuant to the equitable sharing provisions of the federal Controlled Substances Act contained in Title 21, United States Code. Federal law provides that, in the discretion of the United States Attorney, up to 80% of forfeited funds may be equitably shared with state and local law enforcement agencies. The percentage shared must reflect the contribution of the recipient agency in the investigation leading to the successful seizure and forfeiture and must be used for law enforcement purposes.

According to Assistant U. S. Attorney Stephen A. West, who handled the case for the government, "Forfeiture is one of the most powerful tools we have in the continuing effort to stem the tide of the illicit drug trade. Justice is truly served by taking the profits and instrumentalities of the trade and using them to fund law enforcement. In a small community like Wrightsville Beach, this money will truly make a difference. Along with United States Marshal Charles Reavis and DEA Resident Agent in Charge Emmett Highland, I commend Wrightsville Beach for going the extra step in this investigation not only to ensure that a drug trafficker is behind bars but also that her property will no longer be used as a haven for drug dealers and users."

Wrightsville Beach Police Chief John Carey added, "The Wrightsville Beach Police Department is proud to partner with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Marshals Service, and the United States Attorney's Office in an equitable sharing agreement for federally forfeited property. Wrightsville Beach Police Officers initiated an investigation of drug trafficking which led to arrests and to the seizure of real property. The subsequent sale of this property and the receipt of the shared proceeds will allow the Wrightsville Beach Police Department to purchase new vehicles, digital in-car video cameras, improved surveillance equipment and other police-related equipment, which will be used to increase existing programs. As local budgets continue to tighten, assets received under federal forfeiture laws benefit the department and the town by providing revenue to increase the department's budget without adversely affecting the taxpayer. Our thanks go out to all of the officers and agencies involved in this investigation."


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