Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is Asset Forfeiture?
A: Asset Forfeiture occurs when law enforcement officials take property from individuals because the property was obtained or used in a way that is against the law.
Q: Why does Law Enforcement use Asset Forfeiture?
A: Asset Forfeiture is used in the following instances:
• For law enforcement, by removing the tools of crime so they cannot be used again.
• To recover property for victims.
• To deter crime by taking away the profit.
• For punishment.
Q: What things can be forfeited?
A: Proceeds: property that the wrongdoer would not have had but for the crime.
Example: Property (cash) acquired by unlawful activity (drug sales) or property traced to property acquired by unlawful activity (car bought with the cash).
Facilitating Property: Property that makes the crime easier to do or harder to detect.
Examples: The house where drug sales occur, the computer used to distribute child pornography. Corpus Delecti Property: Property that is essential to the commission of a crime. Examples: firearms, smuggled goods.
Q: What are the different types of forfeiture?
A: Administrative Forfeiture: is a non-judicial matter that is handled by a Government agency.
Civil Forfeiture: is an in rem, or against property judicial matter started by a prosecutor by the filing of a civil complaint which commences a civil case in court. The property is the defendant and no criminal charge against the owner is necessary.
Criminal Forfeiture: is brought as a part of the criminal prosecution of a defendant. It is an in personam, or against the person judicial action and requires that the government indict (charge) the property used or derived from the crime along with the defendant. If the jury finds the property forfeitable, the court issues an order of forfeiture.
Q: If you received information in the mail from the U.S. Attorney’s Office advising of a forfeiture matter you believe you have an interest it, what are your options?
A: You should contact an attorney for legal advice or if you feel the government action is unwarranted, you may file a claim and answer contesting the forfeiture. If you do not have an interest if the property being forfeited, or you do not want to contest the forfeiture, you do not have to do anything.
Q: What information should be included in a claim in a civil or criminal forfeiture matter?
A: Rule G(5)(a) of the of the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions states a claim must:
• Identify the property;
• Identify the claimant and his or her interest in the property;
• Be signed by the claimant (not attorney) under penalty of perjury; and
• Be served on the Government attorney handling the case.
Q: Is a lawyer required to participate in forfeiture litigation?
A: No, a lawyer is not required to participate in a forfeiture matter however, many people choose to hire one familiar with forfeiture law to assist them.
Q: If you do not believe you can afford a lawyer for a forfeiture case, will the Court appoint a free lawyer?
A: There is no constitutional right to appointed counsel in civil forfeiture actions. However, under narrow and specific circumstances the Court may appoint counsel to assist indigent litigants.
Q: If I believe I have been victimized by an individual whose property is being forfeited by your office, what should I do?
A: Please refer to the following websites and links:
For information on restoration and remission, please click the following link:
To view a sample Petition for Remission or Mitigation of Forfeiture, please click the following link:
Contact Person for Asset Forfeiture Matters:
Supervisory Paralegal Specialist
Q: Where do I make my payments?
A. Criminal restitution, fine and special assessment payments should be made payable to the Clerk, United States District Court and mailed to Clerk, U.S. District Court, 2 Niagara Square, Buffalo, NY 14202 (A payment coupon is attached for your convenience).
Be sure to write your case number on your check or money order for proper payment application.
A. Civil payments should be made payable to U.S. Department of Justice and mailed to U.S. Dept. of Justice, P.O. Box 70932, Charlotte, NC 28272-0932. Be sure to write your name and CDCS number on your check or money order for proper payment application.
If you have access to the internet and wish to pay your civil debt electronically, you can log onto www.pay.gov, select “Search Public Forms” link and enter the form name: “DOJ DAOG”. Use your CDCS case number and payment information to complete the form. Forms are attached for your review.
Q: If I cannot make my payment or have previously made payment arrangements and cannot keep those arrangements who do I contact? Rather than What do I do?
A. Please call the paralegal assigned to your case. For all civil collection debts and/or criminal debts with the last name beginning with: criminal debts A-I, Jennifer Petruso, (716) 843-5734; J-Z, Ann Morrow (716) 843-5840. They will need current financial information from you. The attached form may be returned in one of two ways: Print and fill in the form and mail to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, 138 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14202; or, print and fill in the form, scan the document and e-mail the image to the individual who is assigned your case. Our address is U.S. Attorney, 138 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14202.
Q. Can I pay my debt using a credit card?
A. Yes, you may access www.pay.gov and pay by credit card. Payments can be made by credit card for civil debts only. The following credit cards are acceptable: Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club International, discover, American Express and debit bank cards with any of the above logos. Criminal debt payments cannot be made by credit card.
Q. Can I pay my debt through installment payments?
A. You may be able to enter into an installment payment agreement depending upon your financial situation. A Financial Statement of Debtor Form will need to filled out by you and returned to our office for review and consideration. Financial Statement of Debtor. Call the AFFLU to discuss this option.