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HSI presents Savannah Police Department with asset sharing check

SAVANNAH, Ga. – The Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department (SCMPD) received a check for $244,875.01 Thursday from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE ) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Atlanta office.

Special Agent in Charge Brock D. Nicholson of HSI Atlanta and U.S. Attorney Edward Tarver from the Southern District of Georgia presented the check to SCMPD Chief Julie Tolbert at police headquarters.

The funds resulted from an investigation by HSI, SCMPD, the Coast Guard Investigative Service and other Southeast Coastal Border Enforcement Security Task Force partners. The SCMPD has an officer assigned fulltime to the HSI-led task force.

"The investigation into Diamond Casino Cruise’s illegal gambling operation would not have been possible without significant assistance from the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department," said Nicholson. "HSI is proud to return a significant portion of the money seized in this case to the police department, where it will be put to good use improving the public safety for all citizens in this area."

"The relationship the SCMPD has with our federal law enforcement partners is very important. This is just one example of how that teamwork paid off for our department and our citizens," said Tolbert.

The 2010 investigation uncovered a large illegal gambling operation aboard the Diamond Casino Cruise, which operated on the Savannah River. A federal grand jury indicted three men responsible for the cruise line. Gregory Sicilia, John Sternberg and Jeffery Thompson each pleaded guilty to a charge of prohibition of illegal gambling businesses.

"Crime does not pay. In addition to the individuals held responsible for running an illegal gambling operation in our community, local law enforcement, federal agents and federal prosecutors were able to seize and forfeit $980,000 of the operation’s gambling proceeds. These successes were made possible by the joint effort of our federal and state law enforcement partners. We are honored to be able to turn a large portion of a criminal operation’s ill-gotten gains into moneys that will be used to protect the citizens of our community," said Tarver.