Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section

  • The Asset Forfeiture & Money Laundering Section is responsible for the litigation of all asset forfeiture cases from law enforcement agencies with statewide jurisdiction, and the supervision of financial investigations leading to money laundering arrests and large property seizures.   These cases are complex and often involve multiple defendants and numerous types of property.   The Section consists of a Section Chief, litigation attorneys, legal support staff, and the Asset Forfeiture Administration Unit which is tasked with administering and liquidating all forfeited property.     The litigation attorneys and legal support staff are located throughout the state in various regional offices.   The Asset Forfeiture Administration Unit is centrally located in the Harrisburg area to assist in the storage and transfer of assets throughout the state.

    The Section is primarily responsible for the litigation of asset forfeiture cases pursuant to the Controlled Substances Forfeitures Act.  This Act provides for the forfeiture of property that was used to facilitate violations of the Drug Act as well as property representing proceeds of drug trafficking.   The cases usually involve the forfeiture of cash, automobiles, jewelry, bank accounts and other financial instruments, and real estate.   In recent years, other forfeiture statutes have been enacted and the litigation therefore falls with the Section.    These current statutes include Sex Offenses, Chop Shops, Gambling and Liquor Code Violations, Trademark and/ or Recording Device Counterfeiting, and all Common Law violations.  

    The seizure of property is made by law enforcement agencies with statewide jurisdiction such as the Bureau of Narcotics Investigation and Drug Control, the Pennsylvania State Police, and the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole.   However, these agencies often work with police agencies with county, city, or municipal jurisdiction.    In the event of multi-agency cases, this Section coordinates with the appropriate District Attorney’s Office to decide the equitable sharing of the assets.    When the Office of Attorney General litigates the case, this Section sends the equitable share to the District Attorney’s Office after liquidation of the asset.    When the District Attorney’s Office litigates the case, this Section requests the District Attorney’s Office send the equitable share to this office.     Often, letters are exchanged between the two offices to determine the equitable sharing that is to take place.  

    The Section also is responsible for seeking the Attorney’s General share of forfeiture cases litigated by the various United States Attorneys’ Offices and/or any Federal Agency.    The Section coordinates and completes the necessary documentation to the Federal Agency responsible for the seizure of the property.    The initializing form is entitled “DAG-71” and every asset seized by the Federal Agency requires a completed form.    This form is available through the various Federal Agencies websites.    All federally forfeited assets are remitted directly to the law enforcement agency involved in the case and not to a District Attorney’s Office, unless the District Attorney’s Office itself was involved in the criminal investigation leading to the seizure of property.

    The attorneys of the Section also supervise money laundering investigations and litigate the resulting prosecutions when appropriate.   In December of 1989, Pennsylvania’s “Money Laundering Statute, 18 Pa C.S.A. Section 5111, was enacted.   That legislation specifically provided the Office of Attorney General original jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute money laundering cases.   Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering are specialized areas of the law that require considerable expertise.  The attorneys of this Section, working in conjunction with financial investigators, have the expertise to trace hidden assets, expose straw buyers, analyze bank records and develop financial profiles; then successfully litigate forfeiture and money laundering cases. 

    An aggressive approach to the investigation and presentation/prosecution of asset forfeiture and money laundering cases has led to significant forfeitures of monies, automobiles, personal property and real estates; as well as convictions for felony money laundering crimes.   The monies derived from the forfeitures are, in turn, used by law enforcement to help fund future drug and other criminal investigations as well as assist community-based drug and crime-fighting programs throughout the state.