District of Montana Collects $4.5 Million in Civil and Criminal Actions in FY 2016
HELENA - U.S. Attorney Michael W. Cotter announced today that the Montana United States Attorney’s Office collected $4.5 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 related to criminal and civil actions. In some cases, the U.S. Attorney’s Office worked in conjunction with litigating components of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced on December 14, 2016 that the Justice Department collected $15.3 billion in civil and criminal actions in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016. The $15.3 billion in collections in FY 2016 represents more than five times the approximately $3 billion appropriated budget for the 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices and the main litigating divisions of the Justice Department combined in that same period. Collections in Montana totaled $55.3 million for the past five fiscal years combined, more than twice the operating budget for Montana’s U.S. Attorney’s Offices for those years.
“Every day, the men and women of the Department of Justice work tirelessly to enforce our laws, ensuring that taxpayer dollars are used properly and that the American people are protected from exploitation and abuse,” said Attorney General Lynch. “Today’s announcement is a testament to that work, and it makes clear that our actions deliver a significant return on public investment. I want to thank the prosecutors and trial attorneys who made this year's collections possible, and I want to emphasize that the department remains committed to the well-being of our people and our nation.”
“The collections program illustrates an important aspect of the USAO’s public service mandate that is often overlooked,” said U.S. Attorney Michael W. Cotter. “It is important to all of us in the U.S. Attorney’s Office that we maintain a positive balance sheet. This office, like the Department of Justice overall, pays for itself. Considering the many things we do, from defending torts and environmental lawsuits on the one hand, to prosecuting violent crime on our six American Indian reservations of the other hand, the American taxpayers are getting value for their money.”
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. 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 departments Crime Victims’ Fund, which distributes the funds to state victim compensation and victim assistance programs.
Occasionally, assets from criminals are forfeited by court action. Forfeited assets deposited into the Department of Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund are used to restore funds to crime victims and for a variety of law enforcement purposes. 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.
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 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.