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Forfeiture Racket Exposed


A news report in the Sun Sentinel has exposed a legal, but very unethical practice by police in our state. According to the report, the small town of Sunrise is hauling in three times as much forfeited cash as any other city in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Last year, the city raked in $2 million in state and federal forfeiture funds. The year before, in 2011, the figure was twice that — nearly $4 million. But it’s the way they go about it that has people asking questions.

The article says that all the seizures aren’t just a happy accident, but that police are rewarding informants for bringing high-dollar busts into their jurisdiction. By making the arrest locally, police can then seize the cash and assets of criminals. This is perfectly legal, since the cops aren’t creating the crime, but it seems shady to attract criminals to your town to make a profit.

The paper lists one paid informant who racked up about $800,000 in reward money. The paper lists 63 cases the woman was involved in. It appears she made a regular business out of it – getting a percentage of cash seized when arrests are made.

Again, using informants to bust criminals isn’t new. Neither is rewarding them with a percentage (typically less than 5%) of the cash seized. But the city of Sunrise has made it into an art. They attract the perpetrators like flies to honey and then swoop down and cash in.

Other cases with informants seem to show police dropping charges when they believe they can leverage a bust into a higher dollar sting. But this too is a common enough technique. Law enforcement and prosecutors will make deals if they think they can use the information they get to make other arrests.

The real question here is the motivation. Is law enforcement doing all this to fight crime or to turn crime into a money-making opportunity?


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