U.S. Attorney’s Office Collects Nearly $20 Million in 2014
Environmental Fines And Penalties Some Of Largest Collections
Acting U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes announced today that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington collected $6.9 million in criminal and civil actions in Fiscal Year 2014. Of this amount, $4.7 million was collected in criminal actions and $2.2 million was collected in civil actionsThe Western District of Washington also collected an additional $12.2 million in forfeited assets related to criminal activity.
Additionally, the Western District of Washington worked with other U.S. Attorneys’ offices and components of the Department of Justice to collect an additional $5.2 million in cases pursued jointly with these offices. The vast majority of the collections in shared cases were collected in civil actions.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department collected $24.7 billionin civil and criminal actions in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2014. The more than $24 billion in collections in FY 2014 represents nearly eight and a half times the appropriated $2.91 billion budget for the 94 U.S. Attorney’s offices and the main litigating divisions in that same period.
“Every day, the Justice Department’s federal prosecutors and trial attorneys work hard to protect our citizens, to safeguard precious taxpayer resources, and to provide a valuable return on investment to the American people,” said Attorney General Holder. “Their diligent efforts are enabling us to achieve justice and recoup losses in virtually every sector of the U.S. economy. And this result shows the fruits of the Justice Department’s tireless work in enforcing federal laws; in protecting the American people from violent crime, national security threats, discrimination, exploitation, and abuse; and in holding financial institutions accountable for their roles in causing the 2008 financial crisis.”
“These financial recoveries on behalf of the taxpayers demonstrate that this office will use all the tools at its disposal to protect public safety and our tax dollars,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “Among many other key recoveries, the amounts collected from those who have committed environmental crimes are particularly important. They send a clear message that those who damage our natural heritage will be held to account.”
In March and April 2014, Stowe Construction Inc. paid more than $334,000 related to their conviction for violation of the Clean Water Act. Stowe Construction, and its President Bryan Stowe, admitted knowingly violating the Construction General Storm Water Permit for the Rainier Park of Industry project, located on West Valley Highway in Sumner. Permit violations contributed to two major landslides at the site in 2010 and 2011. Both slides forced closure of the West Valley Highway. The case is one of the first storm water pollution criminal cases brought in the United States. More on the case is available here.
In a second environmental case, Ray Caldwell, owner of All-Out Sewer And Drain Service, Inc., a Longview, Washington, septic tank pumping business paid a $250,000 fine in April 2014 for violations of the Clean Water Act. Caldwell illegally dumped more than two million gallons of waste and pollutants into the Longview sewer system. More on the case is here.
In civil litigation, the largest collection was $500,000 from Alaska Airlines in September 2014 to settle an FAA civil penalty claims regarding a maintenance issue. More on that case here.
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 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 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, Small Business Administration and Department of Education.
Additionally, the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Western District of Washington working with partner agencies and divisions, collectednearly $12.2 million in asset forfeiture actions in FY 2014. 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.
One of the most significant forfeiture actions concerned three former motels in Tukwila, Washington, which were seized by the government as chronic drug involved residences. To date the value of properties forfeited in that case exceeds $3 million. Additional forfeiture proceeds in that case will be recorded in fiscal year 2015. The motel properties are now being redeveloped by the City of Tukwila. More on this innovative case is available here.