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Nov. 16, 2011

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U.S. Attorney’s Office Collects $219,457,789 in Civil & Criminal Actions in FY 2011

HOUSTON – The United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Texas (SDTX), collected $219,457,789 in criminal and civil actions in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Of this amount, $151,840,126 was collected in criminal actions and $67,617,662 was collected in civil actions. As part of this amount, the office also collected $39,295,796 in criminal and civil forfeitures.

Nationwide, the U.S. Attorneys’ offices collected $6.5 billion in criminal and civil actions during FY 2011, surpassing $6 billion for the second consecutive year. A portion of this amount, $1.3 billion, was collected in shared cases in which one or more U.S. Attorneys’ offices or department litigating divisions were also involved. The $6.5 billion represents more than three times the appropriated budget of the combined 94 offices for FY 2011.

“During this time of economic recovery, these collections are more important than ever,” said U.S. Attorney Magidson. "Recovering funds for the federal treasury and for victims of federal crime, while eliminating the profitability of unlawful conduct is an essential function of this office. Verdicts and judgments in favor of the United States hold those responsible for illegal actions accountable to the public.”

This past January, the SDTX forfeited approximately $4 million from bank accounts and real property related to a fraud scheme involving loans guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the export of agricultural commodities from the United States to Mexico. The recovered money, including an additional $2.7 million recovered in the previous fiscal year, will be returned to the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation. In another example, the SDTX forfeited more than $13 million in assets following the guilty plea of Jonathan Paul Barnes to fraud and conspiracy charges. That money is expected to be returned to the fraud victim. Barnes, a former employee at LyondellBasell Industries, accepted kickbacks from shipping companies in exchange for agreeing to have Houston Refinery pay more than $80 million above market prices for shipping oil. The forfeited assets included domestic and foreign bank accounts, two New York lake houses, a boat, expensive jewelry and a dozen high-end vehicles, including a 1957 Cadillac once owned by Frank Sinatra. Additional forfeitures have occurred in the current fiscal year.

In one restitution case, the district collected more than $195,000 from a Missouri City man convicted of bankruptcy fraud for hiding his interest in an oil and gas mineral lease while seeking discharge of his debts through bankruptcy protection. In the current fiscal year, the district has collected additional amounts to satisfy the entire $360,000 restitution order. The collected funds have been paid over to the bankruptcy trustee for distribution to the man’s creditors. In other restitution cases, the district collected close to $300,000 for the IRS from taxpayers convicted of lying on tax returns and more than $500,000 for the Department of Health and Human Services from health care providers convicted of stealing from Medicare by submitting phony invoices for goods or services. The district collected criminal fines of nearly $68 million in four separate cases of Federal Corrupt Practices Act violations, most commonly involving shipping companies paying bribes or receiving kickbacks.

The U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, along with the department’s litigating divisions, are responsible for enforcing and collecting civil and criminal debts owed to the U.S. and criminal debts owed to federal crime victims. Statistics indicate that the total amount collected in criminal actions totaled $2.66 billion in restitution, criminal fines, and felony assessments. The law requires defendants to pay restitution to victims of certain federal crimes who have suffered a physical injury or financial loss. While restitution is paid directly to the victim, criminal fines and felony assessments are paid to the department’s Crime Victims’ Fund, which distributes the funds to state victim compensation and victim assistance programs.

The statistics also indicate that $3.83 billion was collected by the U.S. Attorneys’ offices in individually and jointly handled civil actions. The largest civil collections were from affirmative civil enforcement cases, in which the United States recovered government money lost to fraud or other misconduct or collected fines imposed on individuals and/or corporations for violations of federal health, safety, civil rights or environmental laws. In addition, civil debts were collected on behalf of several federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Internal Revenue Service, and Small Business Administration.

Additionally, the U.S. Attorneys’ offices, working with partner agencies and divisions, collected $1.68 billion in asset forfeiture actions in FY 2011.  Forfeited assets are deposited into the Department of Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund and Department of Treasury Forfeiture Fund and are used to restore funds to crime victims and for a variety of law enforcement purposes.

The nationwide collection totals for the U.S. Attorneys’ offices for FY 2010 and FY 2011 combined is $13.18 billion, which represents nearly a 52% increase over the FY 2008 and FY 2009 combined total of $8.55 billion.