MONTANA UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE COLLECTS $28.3 MILLION IN CIVIL & CRIMINAL ACTIONS FOR U.S. TAXPAYERS IN FISCAL YEAR 2013
U.S. Attorney Michael W. Cotter announced today that the Montana United States Attorney's Office collected $28.3 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 related to criminal and civil actions in cases handled by the Montana United States Attorney's Office. In some cases, the U.S. Attorney's Office worked in conjunction with litigating components of the U.S. Department of Justice. (During this time of budgetary uncertainty, these collections are more important than ever,( said U.S. Attorney Michael W. Cotter. (The U.S. Attorney(s Office is dedicated to protecting the public and recovering funds for the federal treasury and for victims of federal crime. We will continue to hold accountable civil and criminal wrongdoers who seek to profit from their illegal activities.(
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 to federal crime victims. Generally, these debts are judgments, either civil judgments or criminal judgments entered by the federal court. Criminal judgments consist of fines and restitution. 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.
Occasionally, assets from criminals are forfeited by court action. Forfeiture proceeds are often distributed back to local law enforcement to assist them in the protection of Montana communities or to the victims of crime. Forfeited assets include currency or bank accounts, real property and cars purchased with illegal proceeds or used to facilitate crimes, guns held by convicted felons, and computers used for child pornography. Seized property is sold and the money deposited into the government accounts used to restore money lost by crime victims.
Those who regularly follow the news are aware of the function of the United States Attorney's Office (USAO) regarding federal criminal prosecution. Equally important, but perhaps not as well known, is the mission, function and success of the Montana USAO in recovering money for the benefit of victims of crime and the U.S. Treasury. This critical mission is accomplished in large part by the Financial Litigation Unit (FLU). The unit is led by a career federal litigator, Assistant U.S. Attorney Victoria Francis of Billings, who is supported by two paralegal specialists who handle over 1400 active cases. The FLU collects criminal restitution, fines, and penalties ordered to be paid to federal agencies when federal programs are defrauded.
In addition the FLU Unit helps federal prosecutors identify and forfeit assets that represent the proceeds of or that were used to facilitate federal crimes.
Across the country, the United States Attorneys' offices collected $8.1 billion from criminal and civil actions during 2013, which is far more than the appropriated budget of the combined 93 USAOs offices for that year. Collections in Montana totaled more than $28.3 million for 2013, more than five times the annual operating budget for Montana's U.S. Attorney's Offices. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Montana is credited with collecting $2 million in relation to criminal actions brought by the office, $20.5 million in relation to civil actions, and $5.8 million in criminal and civil forfeiture cases.
U.S. Attorney Cotter noted that "budget sequestration bites deeply into the operations of the Montana USAO. The Montana USAO currently has an employee vacancy of rate of roughly 25%. Cutting the budgets of United States Attorneys' offices through sequester effectively reduces government revenue. There are simply fewer lawyers and support personnel to accomplish the overall mission of the Department of Justice, including the ability to collect fines, money owed to the government and restitution for crime victims. Therefore, shortages of personnel and restrictions on litigation-related expenditures are expected to affect the USAO ability to collect funds due the United States."
The efforts of this office to serve the people of Montana will continue. Reduced resources will make it more difficult to maintain the same level of service for law enforcement protection, for public safety or the protection of the public purse. But this office is committed to maintaining the highest ideals of public trust and public service despite those challenges." --- U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter.