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Federal prosecutors collect $500M in penalties

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ROANOKE – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia; which includes Galax, Carroll and Grayson; collected $501.5 million in criminal and civil penalties in fiscal year 2013.
“This money helps provide restitution and other victim services, and supports law enforcement activities around the district,” U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said when announcing the total in a report last month.
Additionally, the Western District of Virginia worked with other U.S. Attorney’s Offices and components of the Department of Justice to collect an additional $1.16 billion in civil cases pursued jointly with these offices.
“In 2013, our office collected more than 75 times our annual budget in criminal and civil penalties and asset forfeitures,” Heaphy said. “I am proud of the [Assistant U.S. Attorneys] and staff in our district, who continue to achieve unprecedented success in recovering assets from those who commit fraud and other crimes.”
For fiscal year 2013, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia collected more criminal, district-only, money than any other U.S. Attorney’s Office in the country. The $501.3 million, collected in 2013 is the highest total collection money collected to date in the Western District of Virginia.
A large portion of this collection stems from the criminal fine levied against Abbott Labs, announced in 2012.
“Our office was again near the top of the list in terms of shared collections in civil cases,” Heaphy said. “The $1.155 billion collected civilly includes $818 million from the Abbott Labs case brought in the Western District of Virginia, as well as $335 million in shared collections in nationwide cases brought by other United States Attorney’s Offices.”
In these “shared collections” cases, U.S. Attorney’s Office employees contacted local victims to make them aware of prosecutions in other districts and gave them the information they needed to enforce their rights and obtain relief.
“Our participation in these shared collection actions reinforces the notion that we must work with the department, and other districts, to successfully prosecute some of these large, complex fraud cases,” Heaphy said.
In terms of asset forfeiture, the Western District office collected assets totaling $6.35 million, more than any other similarly-sized U.S. Attorney’s Office in the nation.
In addition, the Western District has more assets under seizure than 91 other districts, with a value of seizures higher than 80 other districts.
“Our asset forfeiture unit does an unbelievable job in identifying and seizing those assets derived from the ill-gotten gains of the convicted,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Sharon Burnham, chief of the district’s Asset Forfeiture Unit. “These forfeited assets help compensate victims and provide a needed supplement to the local law enforcement community. It’s gratifying to use a criminal’s assets to fight crime.”
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 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.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced in January that the Justice Department collected approximately $8.1 billion in civil and criminal actions in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2013.
This total represents nearly three times the appropriated $2.76 billion budget for the nation’s 94 U.S. Attorney’s offices and the main litigating divisions in that same period.
“The department’s enforcement actions help to not only ensure justice is served, but also deliver a valuable return to the American people,” said Holder. “It is critical that Congress provide the resources necessary to match the department’s mounting caseload. As these figures show, supporting our federal prosecutors is a sound investment.”