When you are a criminal and you make a profit off of your life of crime, the government can take those profits through something called asset forfeiture. What happens to these profits depends on where you are and the agency who took them. In Bal Harbour, Florida—a village of less than 3,000 people—the feds are looking very closely into a police department that has traveled the country, turning asset forfeiture into a money-making, globe-trotting event.
This small department, made up of a handful of officers, takes in more money from drug dealers than any other police department in the state. While most small town departments are focused on local crime and keeping their communities safe, Bal Harbour is traveling the country and working hand-in-hand with the FBI to take in the profits of the drug trade, usually without making any arrests.
The Miami Herald reports that the department is now under one of the biggest investigations of its kind into their forfeiture practices. There are indications that there are “questionable expenses”, missing financial records, and misuse of funds to pay snitches hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Among the questionable expenses are first-class airline tickets, Cadillac rentals, a $100,000 boat, banquets, and high-tech toys. When the feds attention heated up on the Bal Harbour department, they banned the village from sharing in forfeiture dollars until the investigation is complete.
Bal Harbour officials can explain each expense and each seizure, they say. They say, for example, the first class plane tickets and fancy car rentals were to ensure their undercover officers looked like big ballers when dealing with big time drug dealers. But, the investigation has shown this not to be the case—with the first class plane tickets actually being used to transport officers to a funeral.
Law enforcement is allowed to seize the profits of criminal enterprise. And a growing number of agencies are working with the FBI in going after these money-making drug-trafficking giants. But what makes the Bal Harbour case unique is that the monies they seize have no connection to the small village and seem to be purely a cash generator for the community.
The investigation, village officials say, is nothing more than jealousy on the part of federal law enforcement. They claim the FBI is jealous of the big cases the small department is able to bring in, and that it’s this envy that’s led to the DOJ investigation.
In the meantime, at least for now, the small department’s big-spending days will be put on hold as the investigation into their forfeiture practices continues.
While it may seem this department is more concerned about money than law enforcement, the same can’t be said for most Florida police departments. If you are accused of violating a criminal law, you can expect to face consequences for it. Contact our offices today if you are charged with a crime.