FORT MYERS, Fla. — A G-35 Infiniti and $304,050 in U.S. currency were forfeited to the United States last week because the money and vehicle were traced to illegal drug activity. The forfeiture resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with support from U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Office of General Counsel and the Florida Department of Transportation.
According to court documents, law enforcement found $304,050 hidden within the tires of a salvaged G-35 Infiniti that was being transported on I-75. The currency, mostly $20 bills, was bundled inside the tires, in heat-sealed packaging. The Infiniti, which was also equipped with a hidden after-market GPS transponder, allowing it to be remotely monitored, had been loaded onto a car-hauler in New Jersey. The car was scheduled to be delivered to an address in Miami, which HSI special agents later determined to be non-existent.
The U.S. government commenced a civil forfeiture action against the vehicle and cash, alleging they resulted from drug trafficking proceeds. An individual, Johnny A. Melo, came forward to contest the forfeiture. He asserted the seized money was from his Miami-based business, Images Windows and Doors, not drug proceeds. Following his conviction in the Southern District of Florida for a federal narcotics offense, aggravated identity theft and related criminal offenses, he abruptly abandoned his claim.
In the Middle District of Florida, enforcement of asset forfeiture laws is an integral part of our law enforcement mission. Taking the profit out of crime helps disrupt and dismantle illegal enterprises, deter crime, fund law enforcement efforts and restore property to victims. In fiscal year 2013, more than $46.2 million in criminal and civil forfeitures was deposited into the Department of Justice and Department of Treasury Assets Forfeiture Funds as a result of forfeitures completed in the Middle District of Florida.