State Audit Could Clarify Drug Seizures!

State Audit Could Clarify Drug Seizures!
Posted by FoM on February 23, 1999 at 06:57:16 PT

State Auditor Claire McCaskill isn't wasting any time attempting to help Missouri officials solve the major problem of misplaced millions of dollars in drug seizure money. 
McCaskill has organized an audit of all 114 county sheriffs, 114 county prosecutors, 60 police chiefs from the largest Missouri municipalities and the Missouri Highway Patrol to determine how much drug money the agencies have seized and how much went to federal agencies. McCaskill acted after The Kansas City Star disclosed situations in which local or state law enforcement agencies notified federal agencies of millions of dollars in drug funds so that the federal authorities and local police could divide the funds, contrary to state law. McCaskill said she should receive information from the agencies by next week. After she analyzes the information, she will pass it on to state lawmakers who are struggling to ensure that seized funds go to Missouri schoolchildren as state law requires. "It will be important for us to get the federal government's cooperation so we can cross-check their records with the ones I receive," McCaskill said in an interview Monday. "We will be looking for cases in which the feds kept 30 percent and sent 70 percent back to the local police agency. Or 50-50 splits or those in which the federal authorities kept 100 percent of the funds seized." McCaskill and Steve Hill, U.S. attorney for Western Missouri, agree that it would be a mistake for state lawmakers to enact legislation that would hinder joint drug investigations involving federal agents and local officers. Such cooperative ventures are essential to make some arrests. McCaskill and Hill agree that, after basic data is collected, it is likely that Missouri law will need to be changed in at least one area. Changes would give officers in Missouri the same authority to seize drug funds as federal law now gives. If a Missouri officer seizes suspicious funds but no felony conviction is obtained against the person who had control of those funds, the money may have to be returned to the person from whom the seizure was made. Federal law presumes such funds are the fruit of illegal acts and gives federal agents authority to seize them whether or not there is a conviction. In any case, as the investigation has shown, Missouri's schoolchildren are not receiving the seized funds as lawmakers intended. McCaskill's audit should mark the first serious step toward correcting that problem. 
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