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For Sheriff's Office, crime does pay

The Sheriff's Office stands to receive nearly $160,000 from the ill-gotten assets seized by federal authorities this year.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa announced this week that it recovered more than $19-million in cash and property during fiscal year 2008. Of that, some $8-million was distributed to local law enforcement agencies.

Forfeiture laws allow law enforcement to seize assets, including cash, houses and cars, that are acquired criminally. They commonly target drug traffickers and money launderers.

That's the case in Pasco, where grow houses and other drug crimes often result in assets being forfeited.

Steve Cole, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office, said federal authorities share the assets with agencies who work on the cases.

"They try to base it on the workload," Cole said.

He did not know the specific cases that yielded the cash influx, but during the last year, Pasco authorities crossed paths with federal agencies numerous times.

In November 2007, a rifle stolen from a Pasco deputy's cruiser turned up in a federal sting at an electronics store in Seffner in which more than 200 people were arrested.

The next month, former Pasco High football standout Troy Hambrick was indicted by a federal grand jury on three counts of selling crack cocaine near his Lacoochee home. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison.

In February, county and federal agents raided an upscale home on Tarragon Lane in Magnolia Estates and found cocaine, narcotic pills and drug paraphernalia. The homeowner was arrested.

Narcotics detectives throughout the county busted a slew of grow houses — laboratories for growing and processing marijuana. Depending on the size of the operation, those cases often end up in the federal system.

Sheriff's Office spokesman Kevin Doll said the agency has a special fund for forfeiture money, and it's typically spent on items that fall outside the normal equipment that local taxpayers expect their money to buy.

In the past, he said, that has included things like speed trailers posted in neighborhoods that show drivers their speed on a digital screen, as well as trucks for the Citizens Service Unit volunteers.

"It's just a way for us to fund some of those projects through the illegal activities of the criminals," Doll said.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

by the numbers

$19m in cash and assets seized this year through the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa.

$8M to be distributed to various law enforcement agencies.

$160,000 to be distributed to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

For Sheriff's Office, crime does pay 12/27/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 29, 2008 11:42am]

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