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Administrative forfeiture action nets over $2 million from marijuana investigation

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Seven law enforcement agencies will receive between $100,000 and $500,000 each as a result of a cash seizure of more than $2 million dollars during a marijuana trafficking investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

According to a declaration of administrative forfeiture issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on July 7, the agencies who participated in the joint investigation will receive an equitable sharing of the proceeds.

A three-month investigation led by ICE HSI into marijuana trafficking in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County area included a search at 10729 Glenluce Ave. The search resulted in the seizure of $2,023,378 - proceeds of marijuana trafficking and thus forfeited to the federal government. On Feb. 17, a federal criminal indictment charged Ubaldo Sandoval, 24, Ana Bertha Sandoval, 32, Jaime Fregoso Arellano, 33, Ciro Noe Guerrero-Rosales, 26, and Hector Tageda Galvan, 37, with conspiracy to distribute marijuana. To date, all five defendants have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

Through the Department of Justice and the Department of Treasury Equitable Sharing Program, local and state law enforcement agencies can apply for a percentage of any forfeited asset. These equitable sharing percentages are based on the total amount of work hours an agency has put forth in a criminal investigation.

"We are very pleased to share the forfeited proceeds of this criminal enterprise with our law enforcement partners that played such a significant role in this investigation," said Brock Nicholson, special agent in charge of HSI in Atlanta. We look forward to continuing to work with all of our law enforcement partners throughout North Carolina, to dismantle criminal networks and identify their illicit proceeds that impact the area."

Nicholson oversees HSI for Georgia, as well as North and South Carolina.

"This investigation was a joint effort with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners and I am pleased that we have succeeded on multiple levels," said U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. "We were able to dismantle a major marijuana distribution ring operating in our district, arrest and prosecute those trafficking the drugs, and take away the financial benefits of engaging in this illegal activity. The forfeited amounts will be used by our state and local law enforcement partners for much-needed resources to support their outstanding investigative efforts."

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Concord Police Department, Mooresville Police Department, Gastonia Police Department, and Coral Gables Police-South Florida Money Laundering Task Force will each receive an equitable share of the forfeited proceeds. The funds will be used to increase or supplement resources of the law enforcement agencies. In addition, ICE HSI and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations will also receive a share for the investigative work performed.

In 1984 the Comprehensive Crime Control Act authorized federal officials to implement a national asset forfeiture program. The Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program is a nationwide law enforcement initiative that removes the tools of crime from criminal organizations, deprives wrongdoers of the proceeds of their crimes, recovers property that may be used to compensate victims, and deters crime. The most important objective of the Asset Forfeiture Program, therefore, is law enforcement.

For further information on the Asset Forfeiture Program, contact the Justice Department's Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section in Washington, DC.