Asset Forfeiture

Legislation Needed to Improve Cash Processing and Financial Reporting Gao ID: GGD-90-94 June 19, 1990

GAO reviewed aspects of the Department of Justice's and the U.S. Customs Service's asset forfeiture program, focusing on the need for Congress to enact legislative changes designed to speed up processing of seized cash and increase congressional and agency oversight.

GAO found that: (1) Justice and Customs must judicially forfeit cash seizures over $100,000, even though 89 percent of all judicially forfeited cash is never contested; (2) Customs and Justice judicial forfeitures averaged 15 and 12 months, respectively, while administrative forfeitures averaged about 8 months; (3) about 82 percent of the cash went through judicial proceedings and 18 percent through administrative proceedings; (4) as of December 1989, seized cash represented about 39 percent of Justice's and Customs' $1.4-billion property inventory; (5) Justice and Customs endorsed a proposal including a provision to allow uncontested cash seizures to be forfeited administratively, which would result in faster forfeiture of seized cash; (6) changing the law would reduce the court system's burden, permit more efficient use of legal resources, and allow faster use of seized cash without affecting individual due process rights; (7) both Justice and Customs established policies aimed at minimizing the practice of holding cash as evidence; and (8) Justice and Customs operated the asset forfeiture fund for 6 years, but never produced a full set of audited financial statements, even though the agencies designated the programs as being vulnerable to fraud, mismanagement, and waste.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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