Region amasses in excess of $1 billion

Posted: December 8, 2012

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Cigarette trafficking cases, many of them local, are part of the reason the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the region collected more than a billion dollars in criminal and civil actions this year.

“It is definitely the biggest year ever,” said Brian P. McGinn, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia.

The district encompasses nearly two-thirds of the state and nearly the entire Interstate 81 corridor, including the Shenandoah Valley, Winchester and Clarke and Frederick counties.

U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy announced Friday that the district collected $1.12 billion this year related to criminal and civil actions.

“This unprecedented number demonstrates our ongoing commitment to recover money for victims and prevent wrongdoers from profiting from their unlawful activity,” Heaphy said in a media release. “The priority we place on financial recovery reflects the Department of Justice’s commitment to protecting the public and recovering funds for the federal treasury and for victims of federal crime.”

Of the amount collected in the Western District of Virginia, $537,043,898 came from criminal actions and $582,718,160 from civil ones.

Additionally, the office collected $199,430,567 in criminal and civil forfeitures.

McGinn said that last year, about $15.5 million was collected for criminal and civil actions — a significantly lower number than this year.

“We will continue to make financial recoveries a paramount goal of our enforcement work and build on our past success in this area,” Heaphy said of the local figures.

The rise in collections is attributed not only to the cigarette- trafficking cases, but also to a misbranding case involving an Abbott Labs prescription drug, which yielded the office $560 million.

McGinn said the majority of the money collected goes to victims and law enforcement — it is not used for budgets and or the office.

The money that isn’t turned over to victims, he said, must be used toward law enforcement gear, rather than for an agency’s budget.

“It goes directly back into the law enforcement machine, so to speak,” McGinn said.

Nationwide, U.S. Attorney offices collected $13.1 billion in criminal and civil actions during fiscal year 2012, more than doubling the $6.5 billion collected in FY 2011.

Those 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.

Statistics indicate the total amount collected in criminal actions totaled $3.035 billion in restitution, criminal fines and felony assessment.

The law requires defendants to pay restitution to victims of certain federal crimes who have suffered a physical or financial loss.

While restitution is paid directly to the victims, criminal fines and felony assessment are paid to the department’s Crime Victim’s Fund, which distributes the money to state victim-compensation and victim-assistance programs.

The statistics also indicate that $10.12 billion was collected by the U.S. Attorney offices in individually and jointly handled civil actions.

The largest civil collections came in affirmative 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.

The $13.16 billion collected nationwide for FY 2012 nearly matches the $13.18 billion collected in FY 2010 and FY 2011 combined.

— Contact Melissa Boughton at mboughton@winchesterstar.com