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Individuals and organizations involved in the myriad of criminal conduct for which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has been charged with combating are often times involved in such activity for one reason only – commercial advantage and/or financial gain – in other words, to make money. Whether utilized in the fight against human  smuggling; narcotics, weapons, or contraband smuggling; exportation of illegal arms or dual-use equipment that may threaten national security; financial crimes, such as money laundering, commercial fraud and intellectual property rights violations; child pornography and exploitation; identity and benefits fraud; or human rights violations, asset forfeiture has proven to be a powerful tool in combating criminal activity and other violations that threaten national security.

The asset forfeiture program exemplifies HSI’s efforts in the area of identification, seizure and forfeiture of assets that represent the proceeds of, and/or were used to facilitate federal violations under the investigative jurisdiction of HSI. The program adheres to the principal belief that the utilization of consistent and strategic application of asset forfeiture laws is necessary and vital in order to disrupt and dismantle the financial infrastructure of criminal enterprises and other national security threats. Asset forfeiture is an essential element of comprehensive and effective law enforcement as it deprives trans-national criminal organizations of their illicitly obtained assets. Accordingly, HSI brings to bear considerable authority, expertise and resources in the area of asset forfeiture. The forfeiture of assets can be and is utilized as a sanction in criminal, civil and administrative investigative activities.

The Asset Forfeiture Unit, located within HSI’s Investigative Services Division, oversees the asset forfeiture program and provides training, support and guidance on asset forfeiture matters to HSI field offices. The asset forfeiture program is currently funded by the Treasury Forfeiture Fund (TFF), which is administered by the Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture (EOAF) within the Department of Treasury. The TFF was established in 1992 as the successor to what was then the United States Customs Service Forfeiture Fund. In keeping with the strategic objective of the Department of Treasury’s asset forfeiture program, the HSI asset forfeiture program has four primary goals:

  • Deprive criminals of property used in or acquired through illegal activities;
  • Encourage joint operations among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as foreign countries;
  • Strengthen law enforcement; and
  • Protect the rights of the individual.

Recognizing that the continued success of the program rests upon public confidence in its integrity, safeguarding the rights of affected individuals constitutes an overriding concern in the administration of the program.

The HSI asset forfeiture program provides funding to state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies that participate jointly in HSI investigations which lead to seizures and forfeitures and/or are members of HSI-led task force initiatives. Through the Department of Treasury's Equitable Sharing Program, HSI provides substantial funds and equipment to state, local and foreign law enforcement counterparts pursuant to the forfeiture of seized items.

State and local support of federal investigative initiatives is absolutely essential to the ICE mission, and the sharing program has proved invaluable in fostering enhanced cooperation between HSI and state and local law enforcement agencies. In addition to equitably sharing assets, some state and local law enforcement agencies are eligible to receive reimbursement for overtime and other limited investigative expenses associated with these joint investigations. The HSI-led task forces create a force multiplier which allows for the disruption and dismantlement of trans-national criminal organizations via the unique expertise brought by each respective law enforcement agency.

As with state and local law enforcement support, foreign law enforcement support for HSI investigations is essential, and the ability to equitably share seized and forfeited monies with foreign governments has also fostered international law enforcement cooperation. The Secretary of the Treasury is authorized by statute to share any forfeited currency, the sale proceeds, or property with the foreign country that participated in a seizure or forfeiture.

For more information on the Equitable Sharing Program and to request a “Guide to Equitable Sharing for Foreign Countries and Federal, State, Local Law Enforcement Agencies,” call your local ICE, Homeland Security Investigations office.

The purpose of the guide is to provide direction on the application procedures, proper uses of the money and required certifications.

Last Reviewed/Updated: 01/03/2018