U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Forefiture Ruling


WASHINGTON, June 25 /PRNewswire/ — The U.S. Supreme Court’s 8-1
decision yesterday to uphold current asset forfeiture laws leave many
people asking the question: “So, what happens to all those seized and
forfeited assets, anyway?” The answer is simple: government auctions. Two
upcoming government auctions provide insight of the law in action:

1) This Friday, June 28, at “high noon, ” the U.S. Customs Service
will auction the magnificent 407-acre “Top Gun Ranch” in Whitefish,
Montana, which the agency seized in October 1990. The ranch was seized
from Jimmie Norjay Ellard, a notorious drug smuggler for the late Pablo
Escobar of the Medellin cartel, who oversaw one of the largest smuggling
operations ever investigated by the Customs Service. Between 1985 and
1990, his organization flew 27.5 tons of cocaine from Colombia into
southern Florida. Code named Operation Caballero (Operation Cowboy), the
Customs Service’s five-year investigation of the Ellard organization
began in 1989. It resulted in the arrest and conviction of Ellard and
several others, and the seizure of the Montana ranch, which Ellard used
as a respite in between smuggling runs. The Ellard case led Customs and
other federal agencies to arrest and convict other key members of the
Medellin cartel in the early 1990s, including Pablo Escobar’s number one
hit man, Dandy Munoz-Mosquera.

Top Gun Ranch was part of $5.8 million worth of assets seized in
Operation Caballero. Other assets include aircraft, vehicles, and other
real estate properties in Colorado, Florida, and Texas. These items have
been, or will be, disposed of separately.

2) On July 18 beginning at 9 a.m. in Edison, New Jersey, several U.S.
Treasury agencies will auction several hundred lots of merchandise
representing the booty of many criminal and civil asset forfeiture cases.
The agencies involved will include the U.S. Customs Service, the Internal
Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the Secret Service, the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Office of Foreign Asset
Control. A wide range of property will be offered for sale, including
automobiles, furniture, electronics, jewelry, carpets, household goods,
hardware, and much more.

This auction is expected to generate between $500,000 and $1 million,
all of which will be deposited directly into the U.S. Treasury Asset
Forfeiture Fund. Since 1990, auctions such as these have generated more
than $115 million in net proceeds to the Department of the Treasury’s
asset forfeiture program.

The end result of asset forfeiture is simple: property purchased with
illegally obtained monies is turned back into dollars via public
auctions; these dollars are then used by federal law enforcement agencies
to support crime fighting efforts, thereby offsetting taxpayers’ costs.
No doubt, these auctions are a better source of revenue than more

Common types of illegal activities which seizures and forfeitures
result from include drug smuggling, money laundering, and fraud schemes.
EG&G Dynatrend of Wellesley, Massachusetts, and Larry Latham
Auctioneers of Indianapolis, Indiana, conduct auctions throughout the U.S
and Puerto Rico for Department of the Treasury agencies and offices.

The public can obtain more information about the U.S. Treasury Auction
Program by calling the Public Auction Line at 703-273-3441, or via the
Internet at www.ustreas.gov.

DIRECTIONS TO JUNE 28, 12:00 NOON AUCTION: From Central Street in
Whitefish, go 11.4 miles on Highway 93 west to Farm to Market Road just
past mile marker 139. Turn left, go 1.6 miles to Star Meadows Road, turn
right, travel 11 miles to Top Gun Ranch (enter at Caretakers Complex on
your left). It will be just past mile marker 539.

-0- 6/25/96 /CONTACT: Kristi Messner of the U.S. Customs
Service Support Division, 703-273-3441/
CO: U.S. Customs Service Support Division ST: District of Columbia,

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